State Government

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Shumlin reflects on single payer failure

MONTPELIER — Former Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said money, wary lawmakers and timing were the core challenges that ultimately caused his failure to deliver on a promise to implement a single-payer health care system in the state. The former Democratic governor reflected on that failure Tuesday at a forum at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Shumlin ran for governor in 2010 on a platform that promised voters a single-payer system. But he announced after his 2014 re-election bid that his administration would not be moving forward with the plan. He cited the tremendous cost of the program and the burden that would be placed on the state’s limited tax base. Continue Reading →

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Governor is among 20,000 Vermonters to receive use tax letter

MONTPELIER — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott is among the 20,000 Vermonters to receive a notice from the Department of Taxes warning that they may owe the state money from the oft-ignored use tax. Rebecca Kelley, the Republican governor’s spokeswoman, confirmed to the Vermont Press Bureau Thursday that Scott recently received the letter. The state’s Tax Department sent the notices to thousands of Vermonters hoping to boost compliance with the 6 percent tax due on online and out-of-state purchases that were not subject to the state’s sales tax at the time of purchase. “He did receive one of the use tax letters from the Tax Department,” she said. “It shows you that there was no bias in who the letters were sent to.”

The governor, Kelley said, does not believe he owes any outstanding use tax. Continue Reading →

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Scott’s pot commission seeks recommended legislation for 2019

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott will sign an executive order today creating the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission that will review myriad issues regarding the legalization of marijuana and look at 2019 for potential legislation to create a regulated retail market for pot. The first-term Republican is creating the commission after vetoing a bill in June passed by the Democratic-led Legislature that sought to legalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of dry marijuana and the cultivation of up to two mature marijuana plants and four immature plants beginning July 1, 2018. The bill would have also created a commission to craft legislation for lawmakers to consider during the 2018 legislative session that would create a regulated retail market for marijuana and review various issues related to legalization. Vermont would have been the first state to legalize marijuana through the legislative process if Scott had signed the bill. Other states that have already legalized the drug have done so through public referendums.

Scott worked with lawmakers to appease his concerns ahead of a June 21 veto session, but lawmakers quickly passed a budget that Scott had also vetoed, leaving no time to address the marijuana bill. Continue Reading →

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Vermont joins multi-state suit to preserve DACA

MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan has joined a multi-state suit that seeks to prevent President Donald Trump from rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has protected young immigrants from deportation. The lawsuit, led by New York Attorney General Schneiderman, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York Wednesday afternoon. “We are going to continue to protect all Vermonters, including the 42 DREAMers here in this state,” Donovan said. The Republican president announced his intention to rescind the program, known as DACA, on Tuesday. It was created through an executive order by former President Barack Obama. Continue Reading →

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Scott announces downtown tax credit recipients

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said projects in Montpelier, Rutland and other Vermont communities are receiving $2.7 million in state tax credits to help fund redevelopment projects in downtown and village centers across the state. Scott said the tax credits approved by the state have generated more than $53 million in investment in 22 separate projects. In downtown Montpelier, a tax credit worth nearly $300,000 will help renovate the the two upper floors of the French Block, which have been vacant for more than 75 years. The two floors will contain 18 new apartments, including 14 affordable units, when the project is completed. The total project is expected to cost more than $5.4 million. Continue Reading →

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Scott: State won’t seek armored vehicles, high-powered weapons from U.S. military

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott said the Vermont State Police will not be seeking any armored vehicles or other heavy-duty equipment from the U.S. military after President Donald Trump eased restrictions on police departments earlier this week. The Republican president signed an executive order Monday to fully reinstate a program that allows police departments to obtain surplus military gear from the Pentagon. The so-called 1033 Program was substantially scaled back by President Barack Obama in January 2015 after police in Ferguson, Missouri, responded to civil unrest with military-style gear in 2014. The Obama administration created a list of prohibited military equipment that police could no longer receive, including armored vehicles on tracks and other weaponized vehicles, rifles and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher, and grenade launchers. Another list of controlled equipment, such as aircraft, explosives and riot gear, required police agencies to show a specific need before it was handed over. Continue Reading →

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Vermont water rescue team heads to Texas

COLCHESTER — A Vermont swift water rescue team deployed to Texas Thursday on a 12-day mission to help with the rescue efforts after Hurricane Harvey. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott participated in a sendoff event Thursday morning for the Vermont Task Force 1 Swift Water Rescue Team. They will help with evacuations and rescues in flooded parts of Texas after Harvey dumped dozens of inches of water on some areas of the state. The 15-member contingent from the 90-strong task force will take two days to drive to Texas with their equipment and two days to return. “This is what makes me so very proud as governor. Continue Reading →

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Stormwater permits could be costly for some

MONTPELIER — Properties with more than three acres of impervious surface — such as a paved parking lot — may soon need to obtain stormwater permits or pay significant “impact fees” under new stormwater rules being considered by the state. The Department of Environmental Conservation is required to adopt an updated stormwater management rule under Act 64, which was signed into law by former Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2015. The updated rule is part of the state’s effort to meet the federal Total Maximum Daily Load mandate for phosphorous flowing into Lake Champlain. Padraic Monks, DEC’s stormwater program manager, said the updated rule being drafted by the department includes the additional general stormwater permit. “We were directed to revise the stormwater rule, re-issue it by the end of this year and also adopt new regulations for existing stormwater discharges,” Monks said. Continue Reading →

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Police weigh Trump order on military equipment

MONTPELIER — Heavy-duty military equipment, including armored vehicles and grenade launchers, may soon be available again to Vermont police departments after the Trump administration revoked an Obama-era ban on their distribution — but some municipal agencies say they aren’t interested. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday to fully reinstate a program that allows police departments to obtain surplus military gear from the Pentagon. That program was substantially scaled back by President Barack Obama in January 2015 after police in Ferguson, Missouri, responded to civil unrest with military-style gear in 2014. “The recommendations issued pursuant to Executive Order 13688 do not reflect the policy of the executive branch,” Trump’s new order reads. “All executive departments and agencies are directed, as of the date of this order and consistent with Federal law, to cease implementing those recommendations and, if necessary, to take prompt action to rescind any rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies implementing them.”

The Obama administration, after review by a working group, created a list of prohibited equipment that would no longer available to police. Continue Reading →

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Scott administration recommends closing EB-5 center as feds send termination notice

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott released a report from his administration Monday evening recommending the shut down of the state-run EB-5 regional center alongside a notice from the federal government that it plans to terminate it. Scott ordered a review of the regional center, which oversees projects utilizing the federal foreign investor visa program, after a financial settlement in a massive fraud case was announced earlier this year. The owner of Jay Peak Resort, Ariel Quiros, and the resort president, William Stenger, were accused last year of a massive fraud scheme involving several EB-5 projects in the Northeast Kingdom by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the state. Quiros was accused of using more than $200 million in inventor funds for his own private use in what investigators labeled “a massive Ponzi scheme.”

On Monday, Scott released a notice from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services outlining its intent to close the state-run center, citing the fraud case and the state’s lack of oversight as key reasons for the pending closure. Scott’s office said Monday that he ordered the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation to review the center’s operations in July, after a court approved a settlement with financial firm Raymond James. Continue Reading →

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