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House rejects key plank in governor’s budget

PPoirier

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

Rep. Robert Frenier

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

Supporters of Planned Parenthood packed the House chamber in support of a resolution celebrating the organization and the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

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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Watch: Capital Beat with House leaders

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Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami speaks with House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski and House Minority Leader Don Turner. Topics include a revenue downgrade and the merits of raising the minimum wage. You can watch Capital Beat on Vermont PBS Plus on Monday nights at 7:30 p.m.

 
Continue Reading →

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Johnson, Ashe lead lawmakers forward

Rep. Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, was elected speaker of the Vermont House on Wednesday, Jan. 4. She is the 3rd woman to serve as speaker in Vermont history. (Times Argus/Jeb Wallace-Brodeur)

MONTPELIER — Lawmakers returned to the State House Wednesday for the 73rd biennial session, electing new leaders and embarking on a new era of state government. The 180 members of the General Assembly —150 in the House and 30 in the Senate — swore their oaths of office before electing their own leadership. Rep. Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, was elected by the House on a 100 to 50 vote to serve as speaker. Johnson, who defeated Rep. Linda Myers, R-Essex, became just the third woman to serve as speaker in Vermont history. In the Senate, Chittenden County Sen. Tim Ashe, a Democrat and Progressive, was unanimously elected president pro tem. Continue Reading →

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Recount leads to tie in Windsor-Orange House race

Rep. Sarah Buxton

MONTPELIER — A recount of the Windsor-Orange 1 House district between incumbent Democratic Rep. Sarah Buxton and Republican challenger David Ainsworth ended in a tie on Monday, according to Buxton. Buxton, of Tunbridge, said a recount Monday at the Windsor County Courthouse in Woodstock eliminated her narrow 1,003 to 1,000 margin over Ainsworth and resulted in a tie — 1,000 to 1,000. But Buxton said it is “questionable” whether that will stand as the final result.

In the original count of the two-town district there were eight write-in votes, two spoiled ballots and 51 blank ballots, according to Buxton. After the recount, there were nine write-in votes, three spoiled ballots and 56 blank ballots. “Somehow between the election night and the recount there are five more blank ballots, which seems kind of strange,” Buxton said. Continue Reading →

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Round up: Mixed bag for central Vermont House members

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Below are the results from several House races:

NORTHFIELD — Incumbent Republican Reps. Anne Donahue and Patti Lewis fended off two challengers to win re-election Tuesday. Donahue secured the most votes in the four-way race for two House seats, winning 2,171 votes, or about 36 percent of the votes cast. Lewis, meanwhile, came in second with 1,691 votes, about 28 percent of the votes cast in the Washington-1 House district, which includes the towns of Northfield and Berlin, according to results gathered by the Associated Press. The two Republicans faced challenges from Progressive Jeremy Hanson and Democrat Gordon Bock. Continue Reading →

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House GOP seeks shorter session, narrow focus on fiscal issues

Rep. Linda Myers, R-Essex Jct., leaves the podium after speaking at a House GOP news conference highlighting the caucus' electoral and legislative goals. (Times Argus/Stefan  Hard)

MONTPELIER — Vermont House Republicans say they are gunning for a substantial pick up of seats and will be pursuing a two-year state budget process and a complete focus on fiscal issues rather than new policies. More than two dozen House Republicans and Republican candidates gathered for a State House news conference Tuesday to highlight their goals for the upcoming general election and legislative biennium. House Minority Leader Don Turner, of Milton, said he hopes to lead the House in a new direction after the election. “It’s time for a new direction and a new way of thinking in Vermont. I want to lead that change in the House and I want to be looking for support from all the Republican colleagues, across party lines — independents and Democrats — because I believe that we cannot sustain this pace of heavy spending and recklessly taxing Vermonters to no end,” Turner told reporters. Continue Reading →

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Trees to be removed from State House lawn

MONTPELIER — The State House will be a bit less shady this summer. On Saturday, the five large maple trees closest to the sidewalk along State Street will be cut down, a move prompted by the trees’ poor health and their effect on other nearby maples. For several years, Ira Moser, grounds supervisor at the State House, has advocated for the trees’ removal, a move that would follow the previous removal of some large maples from the lawn that were also located next to State Street, to the west of the large sidewalk that leads up to the front doors of the building. “What we’re fighting right now is soil compaction and salt,” Moser said of the trees slated to be removed early Saturday morning. All five of the trees were planted between 30 and 40 years ago. Continue Reading →

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House defeats efforts to legalize, further decriminalize pot

Law enforcement officers listen to debate in the House about marijuana legalization. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House on Tuesday soundly rejected a Senate proposal to legalize marijuana and create a regulated retail market for the drug, and even fell short of decriminalizing the possession and cultivation of two marijuana plants. The House did manage to salvage a commission that will study the legalization of marijuana and report its findings back to the Legislature, likely setting up another push at legalization next year after the November election. The House first voted 121 to 28 Tuesday against the Senate’s proposal, which was strongly backed by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. The Senate passed the bill on a 17 to 12 vote. Rep. Chris Pearson, a Progressive from Burlington, was among the slim minority of House members who supported the Senate’s language. Continue Reading →

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