State House

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Scaled-back paid leave plan clears tax committee

MONTPELIER — The House Ways and Means Committee passed a paid parental and family leave bill Thursday that would provide six weeks of paid time off to Vermonters, but the bill still faces long odds. The committee’s version of the paid leave legislation was drastically scaled back from what the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee passed earlier this year. That committee’s version, which was sought by interest groups, included 12 weeks of 100 percent paid time off and a 0.93 percent payroll tax, which raise about $80 million to pay for the benefits. The Ways and Means Committee version passed Thursday — on a 7 to 4 vote — offers six weeks of paid time off and includes a 0.141 percent payroll tax on the first $150,000 of wages. It will cost about $17 million per year. Continue Reading →

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Senators look to advance discussion on legal pot

MONTPELIER — Frustrated by a lack of action in the House, the Senate will consider two amendments in the coming days that would put the state on a path toward legalizing marijuana. The Senate Judiciary Committee laid out its plans Tuesday to offer various amendments. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said there is “general frustration” in the Senate that the House has been unable or unwilling to act on its own bill this year, which prompted a review among some senators on how to move the conversation forward. “We had fully counted on the House passing H.170 this year. When they got to the floor I think there was a big deflation for us in the Senate. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers push for Liquor-Lottery merger

MONTPELIER — Two lawmakers are proposing an amendment to merge the Department of Liquor Control and the state’s Lottery Commission in January as the House prepares to debate legislation Tuesday that creates a working group to study the issue. The legislation up for debate Tuesday comes on the heels of a resolution passed by the House last week that nullified an executive order from Republican Gov. Phil Scott that would have merged the two entities beginning this week. Scott signed the executive order in January, but state law allows either the House or Senate to nix such a restructuring of the executive branch with a resolution. While the Scott administration has questioned whether that de facto veto power of the executive branch is constitutional, it has not yet moved to challenge it. On Tuesday, Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Chittenden, who was appointed to the House by Scott last week to fill a vacancy, is sponsoring an amendment along with Rep. Jim Condon, D-Colchester, to merge the Department of Liquor Control and Lottery Commission beginning Jan. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with Jason Gibbs and Rep. Helen Head

Rep. Helen Head, D-South Burlington, the chairwoman of the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee, and Jason Gibbs, chief of staff for Gov. Phil Scott, discuss a proposed merger of the Department of Liquor Control and the Lottery Commission. The House voted this week to reject an executive order signed by Scott that seeks such a merger. Continue Reading →

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Ashe: Legalizing pot this year will take a ‘miracle’

MONTPELIER — The prospect of legalizing marijuana this year is likely over, “barring a miracle,” according to Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe. Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, made that comment in a briefing for reporters Tuesday on legislation the Senate still hopes to pass this year. Ashe, and Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said they are hoping to find some way to make progress on legalization this year as the House continues to see its bill languish in committee. But progress means passing something “that reflects the Senate’s interests,” according to Ashe. He said he is not inclined to support any legislation that does not at least include a commission tasked with creating a legal market, he said. Continue Reading →

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Gov. Scott picks Harrison for House seat

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has chosen former Vermont Retail and Grocers Association President Jim Harrison to fill the remainder of former Republican Rep. Job Tate’s term in the Vermont House. Harrison, 63, of North Chittenden, retired from VRGA at the end of 2016 after nearly 30 years leading the organization. Tate, who was serving his second term representing the Rutland-Windsor 1 House district, resigned Friday as he prepares for a lengthy overseas deployment with the Navy Seabees. Harrison said he received a call from Scott Monday evening and was told he would be appointed to replace Tate. “I am very, very honored and flattered to be appointed to fulfill Job’s House seat. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with Sen. Jane Kitchel and Rep. Kitty Toll

Sen. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia, the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Kitty Toll, D-Danville, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, are on the program this week to discuss the 2018 fiscal year state budget. The two sisters are charged with ushering a nearly $6 billion budget through the Legislature. Capital Beat airs on Vermont PBS Plus Mondays at 8:30 p.m. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers, distillers concerned with Liquor commissioner’s comments

MONTPELIER — Comments made by Vermont Department of Liquor Control Commissioner Patrick Delaney earlier this week are raising concerns among some lawmakers that he disparaged the state’s fledgling distillery industry. Delaney testified Tuesday before the Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee regarding proposed changes to Vermont’s liquor laws. Delaney was speaking about legislation proposed by Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, when he told the committee that distilled spirits, typically referred to as hard alcohol, are used solely for a person to get drunk. “In my point of view, there’s only one reason to drink distilled spirits. It’s not because of the finish, … it’s not because of the aromatic nuances. Continue Reading →

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Rep. Job Tate of Mendon to resign ahead of deployment

MONTPELIER — Republican Rep. Job Tate of Mendon plans to resign his seat in the Vermont House in the near future in anticipation of being deployed with the United States Naval Construction Battalions. Tate, 34, a reservist with the Seabees, was elected to the House in 2014 and is in the first year of his second two-year term. Tate declined to discuss the terms of his pending deployment Friday to protect his fellow battalion mates but confirmed his intention to resign because of it. “As I’m preparing to leave, I think it sounds corny and cliche, but my affection for the people I represent has grown immensely. I’m really impressed with the people in my district — their resourcefulness, their sense of humor and also how frank they are and willing to demand change. Continue Reading →

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House passes budget plan with just one no vote

MONTPELIER — Tax and spending bills in the Vermont House received broad, tri-partisan support on the floor for the first time in many years as the body agreed to balance a projected state budget gap without raising taxes and fees. Majority Democrats secured the support of Republicans and managed to hold onto left-leaning Progressives as they crafted a budget bill that cuts into existing services. The House gave preliminary approval to the annual tax bill on a 138 to 0 vote Thursday morning, followed by preliminary approval of a 2018 fiscal year state budget on a 143 to 1 vote later in the afternoon. The House’s tax bill does not create any new taxes or fees, nor does it raise existing ones. It does raise about $5 million in revenue, however, by counting on better compliance from Vermonters, which was enough to gain the support of the entire GOP caucus. Continue Reading →

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