State Government

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Immigration issue splits House GOP caucus

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House advanced legislation aimed at preventing local law enforcement from participating in federal immigration enforcement in a vote that split the Republican caucus with half going against a popular governor from their own party. The bill, S.79, has been pushed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott, Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and a tripartisan group of lawmakers in response to executive orders signed by President Donald Trump dealing with immigration and border security. It received preliminary approval in the House Tuesday on a 110-24 vote, with 24 Republicans voting against it. The bill originated in the Senate where it passed 30-0 and was unchanged by the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Chip Conquest, D-Newfane, the vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told his colleagues the legislation is “not about immigration” at the state level. Continue Reading →

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State officials: GOP health plan could have dire consequences

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s top health care officials on Friday detailed dire consequences, including the loss of as much as $200 million in annual federal funding, if the Republican health care plan proposed in Congress is enacted. Agency of Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille, along with Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Cory Gustafson and Director of Health Care Reform Mary Kate Mohlman briefed reporters on the impact the American Health Care Act, or Trumpcare, as some have taken to calling it, will have on Vermonters. Gobeille said the trio were not advocating for or against the proposal, but they had few positive points to make about the GOP proposal. President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress campaigned heavily in last fall’s election on repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The plan introduced earlier this week by Republicans in Congress seeks to do that. Continue Reading →

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Scott renews call for new ed money

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott is continuing his call for new spending on early and higher education, even after local voters gave widespread approval to increased school budgets, ignoring the governor’s plea for level-funded budgets. Scott said there are still opportunities to find savings within the state’s education fund to pay for $9 million in new spending he has called for in early child care and education, and the $5 million he is seeking for higher education. The governor’s proposed 2018 fiscal year spending plan sought level-funded school budgets and a requirement that teachers pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums to help fund the new initiatives. But lawmakers rejected Scott’s call to move the school budget vote date to May, ensuring that local school boards would put their existing budgets up for a vote on Town Meeting Day. Voters approved 183 budgets on Tuesday while rejecting 18. Continue Reading →

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Scott administration concerned with GOP health care bill in Washington

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s top health care official says the Scott administration is working quickly to assess the impact a GOP health care plan in Washington would have on the state if enacted. Agency of Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille said his team is reviewing the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare. At first glance, Gobeille said, the plan could have significant negative impacts on Vermonters. After years of failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare during former Democratic President Barack Obama’s tenure, the GOP now controls both chambers in Congress and the presidency. President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress campaigned on dumping the sweeping health care reform law Democrats enacted early in Obama’s presidency, and now the GOP has put forth a plan to do so. Continue Reading →

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Listen: Capital Beat Podcast 3.3.17

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April McCullum of the Burlington Free Press joins Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami and Vermont Public Radio political reporter Peter Hirschfeld this week to discuss the state budget and other topics. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes for fresh episodes each week. Continue Reading →

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House budget plan reduces gap to $18 million

MONTPELIER — House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and the chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee say they have found ways to reduce the state’s projected budget from $72 million to about $18 million, but many tough decisions must still be made to bring the 2018 fiscal year budget into balance. Johnson, D-South Hero, and Rep. Kitty Toll, D-Danville, briefed reporters on the status of their budget work Friday as lawmakers prepared for the annual week-long Town Meeting Day break. Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed budget called for increased spending in early and higher education. It called for funding the increase by moving some general fund obligations to the education fund, level-funding local school district budgets and requiring teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums.

But the governor’s education proposals were rejected almost immediately by the Democratic-led Legislature. Toll said her committee has been “really slugging it out” during the first two months of the legislative session and has essentially shelved the governor’s entire budget proposal and is working off of the current budget to craft the 2018 fiscal year spending plan. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with Rep. David Deen and ANR Secretary Julie Moore

Rep. David Deen, the chairman of the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee, and Julie Moore, secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, join the program to discuss water quality efforts and a funding proposal put forth by Deen’s committee. Capital Beat airs on Vermont PBS Plus Mondays at 8:30 p.m. Continue Reading →

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Ashe: Governor needs funding source for new spending

MONTPELIER — Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said the state Senate is moving forward on crafting a state budget that does not include any of Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed new spending unless he provides lawmakers with a different plan to pay for it. The governor’s proposed 2018 fiscal year state budget included new spending for early and higher education as well as housing. But the new spending was covered by shifting some general fund obligations to the education fund, a move lawmakers have all but rejected. Ashe, a Chittenden County Democrat, told reporters Tuesday at his weekly briefing that the new spending will be off the table unless the governor and lawmakers can agree on other areas to cut to cover it. Scott has maintained his promise not to balance the state budget with new taxes or fees, making closing a projected $70 million gap a larger challenge. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers unfazed by White House comments on marijuana

MONTPELIER — A White House official warned last week of a possible crackdown on federal marijuana policy but officials in Vermont say the discussion about whether to legalize the drug here will continue. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer responded to questions at the White House’s daily briefing last Thursday with vague warnings about potential enforcement of the federal government’s policy. “I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it,” he told reporters. Former Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration’s policy was to largely look the other way as states moved forward with state-level legalization. But Republican President Donald Trump may change all of that, putting states like Colorado, where there is a large, regulated marijuana retail market, in the Trump administration’s bullseye. Continue Reading →

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