State House

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House Appropriations sends state budget to the floor

MONTPELIER — The House Appropriations Committee gave unanimous approval Monday to a state budget plan that closes a $72 million projected gap between revenue and expenses without raising taxes and fees, a demand from Republican Gov. Phil Scott that has loomed over the Democratic majority for months. Overall, the Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Kitty Toll, D-Danville, opted to cut general fund spending by about $67 million. Another $5 million in revenue is expected to be generated through enhanced compliance of existing taxes. The plan was approved by the committee on a 11 to 0 vote Monday afternoon, and won the support of four Republican members. The House’s 2018 fiscal year spending plan does not raise taxes or fees, as Scott demanded. Continue Reading →

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House Judiciary sends pot bill to the floor

MONTPELIER — The House Judiciary Committee voted Wednesday in favor of a bill to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, sending the measure to the full chamber after Democratic leaders secured enough votes to ensure it passes. The Judiciary Committee voted 8 to 3 in favor of H.170, which would make it legal in Vermont to possess 1 ounce or less of marijuana, up to two mature marijuana plants and up to four immature plants. It is expected to hit the House floor next week. The bill mirrors the policy already in place in Washington, D.C. But it does not create a legal, regulated market like the one that exists in Colorado and that was passed by the Senate last year. Rep. Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, the Judiciary Committee chairwoman, said she views the bill as addressing a criminal justice issue that continues to exist in Vermont. Continue Reading →

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Gun-seizure bill advances in House

MONTPELIER — Following hours of tense — sometimes terse — debate, the Vermont House advanced a bill Tuesday that would allow police to temporarily seize guns from accused domestic abusers. The House gave the legislation preliminary approval on a voice vote to the measure, H.422, after voting 78-67 to approve the House Judiciary Committee’s changes. It will be up for final passage today. The bill would allow law enforcement officers to confiscate firearms from the homes of those accused of domestic violence for up to five days. Despite finding enough support to pass the House, its prospects in the Senate appear murky. Continue Reading →

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Pot bill seen as losing steam

MONTPELIER — Legislation in the House Judiciary Committee to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana has hit a snag as House leaders look to navigate differing views and rally support in the chamber. The Judiciary Committee was expected to vote H.170 out of committee earlier this week. The bill seeks to legalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of dry marijuana and two plants. It would largely follow the policy already in place in Washington, D.C.

The politics behind legalization are tough to navigate, however. The House legalization bill is a second bite of the apple in as many years. Continue Reading →

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House Dems take off gloves in budget battle

MONTPELIER — House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and the chairs of the House money committees came out swinging Wednesday, accusing the governor of shirking his responsibility to govern by not engaging with lawmakers in the budget process after his initial proposal was rejected. Johnson, joined by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Kitty Toll and Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Janet Ancel, excoriated Republican Gov. Phil Scott for being disengaged from the budget process and sticking to what they say is a budget plan already rejected by lawmakers and local voters. Showdowns between lawmakers and the administration are expected, but for the first time in six years, the Democratic-led Legislature must work with a Republican administration. Wednesday’s tough words from Democrats indicate a more volatile process is likely this year than in recent years when Democrats also controlled the governor’s office. Scott’s budget proposal, unveiled in late January, called for local school districts to level-fund their budgets and force teachers to pay at least 20 percent of their health care premiums. Doing so would save tens of millions of dollars in the state’s education fund. Continue Reading →

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How A Recount In The Vermont House Turned Into A ‘Comedy Of Errors’

here was some drama in Montpelier Wednesday morning as lawmakers prepared to launch a two-day recount process for the results of the November vote on the representatives for the Orange -1 district. A ballot bag had been previously unsealed, which meant the recount —which would have actually been the second recount for this particular race — was called off. This meant that Republican Bob Frenier prevailed. It’s been a complicated and politically-charged process. Here’s what happened:
The Election
In November, voters in the towns of Orange, Williamstown, Washington, Corinth, Chelsea and Vershire had to choose two of four candidates to represent them in the Vermont House of Representatives. Continue Reading →

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House to conduct Orange recount Wednesday

MONTPELIER — A panel of House members will conduct a recount in the Orange-1 House district on Wednesday after approving the rules and procedures governing the recount last week. Republican Rep. Bob Frenier, of Chelsea, defeated incumbent Rep. Susan Hatch Davis, P-Washington, in November’s general election by eight votes. A recount conducted after Election Day narrowed Frenier’s victory to seven votes, but his win was certified and he was sworn in last month as the duly elected representative of the district. But Davis petitioned the House to review the election. After a fivehour debate earlier this month, the House passed a resolution calling for a legislative recount with strenuous objections from Republicans. Continue Reading →

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House rejects key plank in governor’s budget

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s budget proposal suffered a potentially fatal blow Friday as the House voted to reject his plan to move school budget votes to May 23. The House voted on an amendment to an underlying education bill from the Senate. It called for moving local school budget votes from Town Meeting Day in March to May 23, as Scott called for in his budget address last month. Scott was looking to provide more time for local school districts to find a way to level fund 2018 fiscal year budgets at 2017 fiscal year levels, which he wants the Legislature to mandate. But the House voted 47 to 87, largely on party lines, against the amendment sponsored by Barre City independent Rep. Paul Poirier, who himself was against the idea. Continue Reading →

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House OKs recount of Orange House race

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House approved a resolution Wednesday after hours of pointed debate that calls for a recount in the Orange-1 House district race between Robert Frenier and Susan Hatch Davis that was decided by seven votes. Frenier, a Republican who was seated as a House member last month, beat Hatch Davis, a five-term Progressive incumbent, by an eight-vote margin on Election Day. A recount sought by Hatch Davis narrowed Frenier’s victory to a seven-vote margin, but was certified by a judge. Hatch Davis remained unconvinced, however, and sought another recount, which was rejected by Orange County Superior Court Judge Mary Miles Teachout. Hatch Davis then contested the election with the House, which has the authority to “judge” the election and qualifications of its members under the Vermont Constitution. Continue Reading →

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House, Senate approve abortion resolutions

MONTPELIER — The House and Senate approved resolutions Tuesday celebrating the 44th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and Planned Parenthood’s 52 years of existence. The resolution was approved in the Senate on a unanimous voice vote — meaning no senators expressed opposition. In the House, the resolution was approved on a 103 to 31 roll call vote. The resolution “urges Congress and other state legislatures to preserve the rights protected in Roe v. Wade and to preserve access to essential health care services” and “reaffirms the right of every Vermont woman to privacy, autonomy, and safety in making personal decisions regarding reproduction and family planning and the right to continued access to safe and legal abortion.”

Hundreds of Planned Parenthood supporters packed the House chamber Tuesday to show support for the group and the resolution. But the resolution generated some pointed comments from members of the House. Continue Reading →

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