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 →

Leahy joins filibuster effort against SCOTUS nominee

MONTPELIER — Sen. Patrick Leahy joined with most of his fellow Democrats in the Senate Monday and announced he will support a filibuster against President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Leahy is a senior member, voted 11-9 along party lines Monday to send Judge Neil Gorsuch’s name to the full Senate for confirmation later this week. But Leahy, and several other Democrats, announced their intention Monday to oppose what’s known as a cloture vote in the Senate. A cloture vote requires a threshold of at least 60 votes to end debate and move to a confirmation vote on the Senate floor. At least 41 Democratic senators now say they will not vote for cloture, meaning majority Republicans will not be able to confirm Gorsuch in the traditional manner. Continue Reading →

State officials warn of potential scammers

BARRE — Attorney General T.J. Donovan and other state officials are urging Vermonters to be vigilant against scammers as the state and federal tax filing deadline nears. Donovan joined Vermont Tax Commissioner Kaj Samsom and others at a news conference at Capstone Community Action in Barre Monday to raise awareness of tax scams. The most common, Donovan said, is callers pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service seeking back taxes owed to the federal government. Such scams increase as the annual tax filing deadline approaches, he said. “March Madness is over. The April reality check is upon us. Continue Reading →

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 →

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 →

Scott praises House budget work, seeks some concessions

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott heaped praise on a budget plan crafted by House Democrats Wednesday, noting they followed his directive to forego raising taxes and fees. Still, the governor said he is hoping the House budget plan will still be amended Thursday and Friday as the full House debates the proposal to incorporate more of his ideas. “I mean this sincerely — I think they’ve done a lot of work and I appreciate their efforts. They could have gone in a different direction. They could have tried to raise taxes and fees and continued down this path that we’ve been going for the last decade or so, but they didn’t. Continue Reading →

Pot legalization flames out in House

MONTPELIER — Democratic leaders in the House jettisoned a bill Tuesday that would legalize marijuana in Vermont to the Human Services Committee after it became clear that they lacked the votes to pass it on the floor. The bill, H.170, was expected to finally have its day in the House after previous delays. But Democratic House leaders acknowledged late in the day that support for the measure was wavering. Instead of bringing the bill to a vote it was sent to the Human Services Committee on a voice vote where its prospects, and a timeline for consideration there, are unclear. The legislation would legalize the possession of up to 1 ounce of dry marijuana, two mature marijuana plants and four immature points. Continue Reading →

Scott signs immigration bill into law as Trump administration cracks down

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott, flanked by Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Democratic lawmakers, signed into law Tuesday a bill aimed at curbing the impacts of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in January. The signing comes just a day after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced at the daily White House briefing a crackdown by the Trump administration on jurisdictions that do not honor requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain people they may want to take custody of. Such jurisdictions have been commonly referred to as sanctuary cities or states, but there is no legal definition of a sanctuary jurisdiction. The bill signed into law Tuesday, S.79, grants Scott as governor the sole authority to enter into agreements with the federal government to deputize local, county or state law enforcement personnel to enforce federal immigration law. Scott said the law is necessary because the president’s executive orders indicate “a shift in federal policy in the areas of immigration and border security.”

“The executive orders indicate the federal government will seek agreements and engage with the states to perform immigration enforcement functions that are the responsibility of the federal government. Continue Reading →

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 →