Anthony Pollina

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Senate advances budget and tax bills unanimously

MONTPELIER — The Senate advanced its version of the 2018 fiscal year state budget and a corresponding tax bill Wednesday on unanimous votes. The Senate’s spending plan, passed on a 30 to 0 vote, includes a $1.56 billion General Fund, which is 1.7 percent higher than the current 2017 fiscal year budget. It is slightly lower than the House-passed version, however, which grew 1.8 percent over the current year. Overall, the Senate’s total state budget including all state and federal funds totals $5.83 billion — slight more than the House’s $5.815 billion in total spending. The Senate version spends more than $13 million in ways that differ from the House proposal, which cleared the House on a 143 to 1 vote. Continue Reading →

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Ethics Committee is on the agenda in the State House

MONTPELIER — Washington County Sen. Anthony Pollina says he is optimistic the Legislature will pass an ethics bill and create a State Ethics Commission to review and act on ethics complaints for those involved in state government. Lawmakers have hemmed and hawed for years on passing a tough ethics bill that would provide strong oversight over themselves and the executive branch of government. The Senate passed a measure last year very late in the legislative session that the House did not take up. Pollina, a Progressive, plans to introduce a bill that is nearly identical to last year’s and push for early action so both chambers have time to consider it. “I do think this will be the year that we’ll be able to make this happen. Continue Reading →

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Doyle loses re-election bid to Brooks, knocked out after serving since 1969

MONTPELIER — Francis Brooks, with 15.52 percent of the vote, took one of Washington County’s three senate seats away from longtime Republican Sen. Bill Doyle Tuesday. Bill Doyle, who has served in the state Senate without interruption since 1969, narrowly fell into fourth place in the district with 15.3 percent of the vote according to the Secretary of State’s Office, with all districts reporting. With fellow incumbents Ann Cummings, D-Montpelier, and Anthony Pollina, D-Middlesex, pacing the six-candidate field, the race was for third place as midnight approached and Doyle’s bid for a 25th consecutive two-year term was on life support. Cummings was comfortably ahead with 16,742, and Pollina was a safe second with 14,950 votes, but Brooks was pushing for the first partisan sweep in the county’s Senate race in more than three decades and perhaps the first Democratic sweep ever. With Woodbury left to report its results Tuesday night, Brooks was in third place with 13,479 votes and Doyle was a hair behind with 13,343 votes. Continue Reading →

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Potential dam purchase gets bipartisan support

MONTPELIER — State officials are mobilizing to explore the potential purchase of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers, but plenty of obstacles remain in the way to complete a purchase the state passed on just over a decade ago. TransCanada put the 13 dams on the market on March 17 as part of an effort to acquire Columbia Pipeline Group, a Texas-based firm that operates a natural gas pipeline between New York and the Gulf of Mexico, for $13 billion. The sale process involves a total of 4,600 megawatts of power in TransCanada’s northeast power portfolio, including the hydroelectric plants on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers that total 560 megawatts, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Link. The move has prompted a bipartisan group of state officials, including Gov. Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith, both Democrats, and Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, to express interest in purchasing the dams through a state-owned power authority. A similar effort under former Gov. Jim Douglas was made in 2005, but TransCanada outbid the state with its $505 million offer. Continue Reading →

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Marijuana bill close to completion

MONTPELIER — A Senate committee is completing its deliberations on a bill outlining how marijuana legalization would work, but at least two lawmakers say they will not add their names to the bill. The Senate Government Operations Committee has been studying the issue of marijuana legalization, forgoing the question of whether it should happen and instead asking how it would work. Now, lawmakers are putting their final touches on a bill that will come not from the committee itself, but will be sponsored by committee members who support the bill’s goals. “The bill will not be a committee bill but will be sponsored by some of us,” wrote committee Chairwoman Jeanette White, D-Windham, in an email, in which she said the bill must be completed to go to the printer by Friday. “At that time it is given a number and is an official bill,” White said. “It will be on the floor for first reading (introduction) when we come back. It will go directly to Judiciary.”

It will be the task of the Senate Judiciary Committee to review both this bill and the one offered during the last legislative session by Sen. David Zuckerman, P/D-Chittenden, which proposes the legalization and taxation of marijuana. Continue Reading →

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State revenue growth to continue, but remains volatile

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin Administration says revenue forecasts will likely remain unchanged going into the next year, while acknowledging revenue streams have grown more volatile. Administration Secretary Justin Johnson hosted an Internet forum Monday afternoon to inform the public on the pressures lawmakers will face as they craft the 2017 budget, and took testimony from the public on the effects budget cuts might have to social services. In a good news-bad news sort of statement, Johnson discussed the trend of revenues coming into state coffers. “Revenue is growing. It has been growing consistently, year over year, since the global financial crisis in 2008,” Johnson said. Continue Reading →

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Possession, edibles top legalization debate

MONTPELIER — Possession limits and edibles topped a discussion Thursday on how the state might go about marijuana legalization. The Senate Government Operations Committee spent most of the day mulling how, not if, pot would be legalized during the upcoming legislative session, with an eye toward everything from the way Vermonters would be allowed to cultivate to the items that would be available at shops selling pot products. Numerous bills related to legalization are pending, including one from Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden – who is running for lieutenant governor – calling for legalization, to another from Rep. David Potter, D-West Rutland, whose bill calls for a saliva test to determine if a motorist is driving while stoned. All of these bills are set against the backdrop of a state-commissioned study from the Rand Corporation released in January stating the taxation of marijuana could generate as much as $70 million in revenue, an attractive proposition for some lawmakers as the state is looking at a projected $66 million deficit. In some ways, the committee’s take on marijuana mirrors existing laws governing alcohol. Continue Reading →

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Senate supports climate-change resolution

MONTPELIER — Senate lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a resolution that acknowledges both climate change and impact caused by fossil fuel use. By a vote of 23 to 5, Senate lawmakers Tuesday approved a resolution that “recognizes that climate change is a real and present danger to health and well-being of all Vermonters,” and “that human activities make a substantive contribution to climate change.”

The resolution was introduced by Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington, who serves on the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee. The Committee approved the resolution by a vote of 4-0-1. “It recognizes that the warming in the climate system is unequivocal and the human influence on the climate system is clear and substantive,” Campion said. “It acknowledges the state of Vermont recognizes climate change is a real and present danger to the health and well-being of all Vermonters.”

Vermont has a goal of reducing its carbon foot print by 50 percent — compared with 1990 levels — by the year 2028, and reduce carbon output by 75 percent by 2050. Continue Reading →

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Lt. gov casts vote, helps kill changes to law regulating chemicals

MONTPELIER — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott cast a rare vote in the Senate Thursday to break a tie and kill off proposed changes to legislation passed last year that allows the state to regulate “chemicals of concern to children.”

Scott, a Republican, said he has cast fewer than six votes in the Senate since taking office in 2010. The state’s constitution requires the lieutenant governor, the presiding officer of the Senate, to vote when there is a tie. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee was proposing to make changes to Act 188, which passed last year. The law created a reporting mechanism for manufacturers that use certain chemicals in children’s products. Beginning in July of next year, manufacturers that use chemicals designated by the state as “chemicals of high concern to children” must disclose information about those chemicals to the Department of Health. Continue Reading →

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Vermont looks at timing primary to New Hampshire’s

By Dave Gram, Associated Press
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont is coveting its neighbor’s primary and New Hampshire is not amused. A Green Mountain State lawmaker is pushing to have Vermont tag along with early-voting New Hampshire, which is traditionally home to the nation’s first primary. The 2016 election will mark a century of New Hampshire running presidential primaries, though it’s really been a feature on the political landscape, bringing the Granite State a quadrennial burst of media attention, hotel and restaurant business and clout in presidential politics since 1952. New Hampshire state law calls for its primary to be held at least seven days before any similar election — caucuses like the ones in Iowa don’t count, since they aren’t primaries. Continue Reading →

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