Public Safety

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Galbraith calls for universal background checks, ban of “assault-style” weapons

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith called for a ban on "assault-style" weapons at a news conference Monday. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith scrapped the planned announcement of his college plan for low-income Vermonters and instead called Monday for a ban on “assault-style” weapons following the massacre in Orlando on Sunday. Galbraith called for several new gun control measures at the state and federal level as authorities continued to investigate the shooting death of 49 people at a night club in Orlando, allegedly by Omar Mateen, who was killed by police. He told reporters at a news conference Monday at the Community College of Vermont there would be “a significant change in topic.”

“Today, with what’s happened in Orlando, I think that is the focus of attention in our state and it raises a broader issue for me, which I really go back to Robert Kennedy and his quote — “When in the face of evil good men do nothing, that is how evil triumphs,” he said. The former diplomat and Windham County state senator decried the lack of conversation in Vermont about new gun control measures. “We pretend that we are somehow immune from the national trends, when in fact, we’re not and when we face these tragedies we often go to a different issue. Continue Reading →

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House Judiciary passes stripped down pot bill


MONTPELIER — The House Judiciary Committee scaled back a marijuana bill even further Friday in order to squeak it through the committee and keep the bill alive, setting the stage for a possible showdown with the Senate over legalization. By a 6 to 5 vote, the House passed a revamped S.241, which came from the Senate approving legalization for possessing up to one ounce of marijuana. But support for the Senate version never materialized in the House committee. A first attempt to pass the bill Friday that sought to decriminalize the possession of up to two marijuana plants failed on a 5 to 6 vote. After stripping out the expanded decriminalization of the drug, the committee turned Rep. Bill Frank, D-Underhill, who helped it advance on the second vote. Continue Reading →

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State’s PFOA response praised as officials focus on long-term solutions

Gov. Peter Shumlin looks over a map of North Bennington while being briefed on the status of contaminated water wells by Dept. of Environmental Conservation commissioner Alyssa Schuren, center, and Deb Markowitz, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, at the Stae House earlier this week. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Alyssa Schuren was preparing to testify in front of a Senate Committee on the morning of Feb. 25 when news of drinking water contamination in North Bennington was delivered, kicking off an all-out effort by her department and the governor’s office to address an alarming situation. “I was just about to go down and testify in Senate Natural Resources and Energy … and we had 10 minutes until we were going to catch the bus. The division director … comes running in, he opens the door, he’s red-faced, he sits down and he says, ‘We have the test results back from Bennington,’” Schuren said in an interview at DEC’s main office. “I immediately feel myself just sit up straighter, because you could tell by his face that this was not going to be good news.”

The news was not good. Continue Reading →

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Saint-Gobain to cover $50,000 cost for testing wells in North Bennington

MONTPELIER — State officials say investigating contamination by a possible carcinogen in private wells in North Bennington is expected to cost around $50,000, which will be paid for by the company believed to be responsible. Gov. Peter Shumlin and other state officials announced the discovery of Perfluorooctanoic, or PFOA, on Feb. 25. Officials believe the chemical originated from a now-closed factory on Route 67A in North Bennington. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics purchased the former ChemFab site in 2000 and closed it in 2002. Continue Reading →

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State officials are investigating water contamination in North Bennington

Gov. Peter Shumlin announces that six wells in North Bennington have tested positive for Perfluorooctanoic, or PFOA, a potential carcinogen. His administration is now working to determine the responsible party and assist impacted residents. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — A possible carcinogen found in a nearby New York town has also been found in several private wells in North Bennington, the Shumlin administration announced Thursday morning after receiving test results just hours earlier. The chemical, Perfluorooctanoic, or PFOA, is the same chemical that was found in the village of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., that has drawn national attention. It was that case that spurred a concerned citizen to reach out to members of the Vermont Legislature with concerns of potential contamination in North Bennington. One company, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, operated factories that made non-stick coatings in both towns under the Chemfab name in recent decades. The New York plant is still operating while the North Bennington facility, which was purchased by Saint-Gobain in 2000, was closed in 2002. Continue Reading →

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DCF protection bill clears committee

Sen. Dick Sears contemplates the DCF protection bill Wednesday morning.

MONTPELIER — A bill that offers enhanced penalties for assaulting mandated reporters and criminalizes the act of making a threat cleared a key legislative committee Wednesday. By a vote of 4 to 1, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave its go ahead to a proposed law that would offer stiffer penalties for assaulting a worker with the Department for Children and Families or anyone who is required to report suspected child abuse. The bill comes in response to the 2015 shooting death of DCF worker Lara Sobel, who was killed outside her office in downtown Barre in August, and is one of several recent initiatives to protect workers who sometimes find themselves in the middle contentious domestic situations. Under the terms of the bill, DCF workers and mandated reporters will join the ranks of police officers, first responders and medical providers; assaulting a member of any of these professions carries a stronger penalty than the assault of the average person on the street. The enhanced penalty for assaulting a mandated reporter would only be in effect if the assault is directly related to the act of making a DCF report. Continue Reading →

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Story & Video: Shumlin and Sears outline bill to “cautiously and deliberately” legalize pot


MONTPELIER — Gov. Peter Shumlin and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears announced legislation Tuesday to “cautiously and deliberately legalize marijuana in Vermont.”

Shumlin said the “war on drugs” had failed when it came to marijuana prohibition. “The black market is failing Vermont. When you have 80,000 Vermonters who admitted to buying pot … every single month in the last year, and you can assume that since it’s illegal that number is higher, you know we’ve got a problem to solve,” the governor said a State House news conference Tuesday, flanked by Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn and Sears, D-Bennington. Shumlin called for the legalization of marijuana in his State of the State address earlier this month, with some conditions, including:
— A legal market must keep marijuana and other drugs out of the hands of underage kids. With 83 percent of Vermont youth saying that marijuana is easy or somewhat easy to obtain, the current system doesn’t do this. Continue Reading →

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Senate gives preliminary approval to privacy bill

Sen. Tim Ashe

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers offered a ringing endorsement Wednesday for a bill intended to protect personal privacy in the face of technological advances. With a unanimous vote Wednesday afternoon, the Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill intended to limit the way law enforcement can use technology ranging from drones and license plate readers to cell phones and computers to gather information on people. “Together, they do a thing we think is important, which is reinvigorate the conversation about how to protect individuals personal and private lives at a time of rapidly expanding technology,” said Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden of the provisions within the bill. Ashe noted how the concept of privacy has changed during the last 25 years, recalling when a person sending a letter would be “almost guaranteed” nobody would read it aside from the intended recipient, compared with privacy breaches today that lead to disclosure of email. Ashe also noted high-tech companies that are using satellites to photograph every inch of the planet. Continue Reading →

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Story + Video: Legal pot discussion commences, but support is in question


MONTPELIER — Advocates of legalizing marijuana in Vermont are touting new supporters and the potential benefit to Vermont’s economy as State House discussions on legalization commence. The Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana held a State House news conference Tuesday to tout the support of former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney’s support for legalizing pot this year. The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently reviewing two bills that would do just that. The effort to legalize marijuana received a boost from Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin last week when he announced in his State of the State address last week his willingness to sign a legalization bill this year. Shumlin said he would sign a bill if it ensures pot would stay out of the hands of underage people, has tax rates low enough to scuttle the black market, considers road safety and uses revenue for drug use prevention and addiction treatment. Continue Reading →

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Wary Burlington officials allow Trump rally to proceed

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign stop at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

urlington City officials are proceeding with caution on the eve of an appearance by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in the shadow of hometown hero Bernie Sander’s own presidential campaign headquarters. Burlington Police revealed Wednesday that the the Republican frontrunner’s campaign have distributed almost 20,000 free tickets to the rally at the Flynn Theater Thursday evening. The problem, however, is that the theater seats just 1,400 people. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger issued a statement late Wednesday night urging the campaign to take steps to prevent “inconvenience or a public safety risk.”

“Vermonters value the First Amendment and robust political debate. In that spirit, I welcome Donald Trump and his presidential campaign to Burlington tomorrow,” the mayor said in a statement. Continue Reading →

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