Dick Sears

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Police weigh Trump order on military equipment

MONTPELIER — Heavy-duty military equipment, including armored vehicles and grenade launchers, may soon be available again to Vermont police departments after the Trump administration revoked an Obama-era ban on their distribution — but some municipal agencies say they aren’t interested. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday to fully reinstate a program that allows police departments to obtain surplus military gear from the Pentagon. That program was substantially scaled back by President Barack Obama in January 2015 after police in Ferguson, Missouri, responded to civil unrest with military-style gear in 2014. “The recommendations issued pursuant to Executive Order 13688 do not reflect the policy of the executive branch,” Trump’s new order reads. “All executive departments and agencies are directed, as of the date of this order and consistent with Federal law, to cease implementing those recommendations and, if necessary, to take prompt action to rescind any rules, regulations, guidelines, or policies implementing them.”

The Obama administration, after review by a working group, created a list of prohibited equipment that would no longer available to police. Continue Reading →

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Governor, lawmakers strike budget deal on eve of veto session

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and legislative leaders struck a deal Tuesday to end a month-long impasse on the state budget and property tax bills as rank-and-file lawmakers prepared to return to the State House for a veto session Wednesday. The breakthrough on the eve of the veto session should pave the way for a relatively smooth process Wednesday. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, said a new budget was being drafted and would likely be distributed to all rank-and-file members of the Legislature Tuesday night. “I feel like we have a strong compromise that … everybody will be able to say yes to. I think, conceptually, we’re agreed to stuff, which is a huge step forward from yesterday,” she told reporters Tuesday afternoon. Continue Reading →

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Scott responds to legal pot compromise, expresses optimism

MONTPELIER — The Scott administration has accepted most of the changes lawmakers have suggested to a marijuana legalization bill vetoed by the governor, but is seeking some additional amendments to gain his support ahead of next week’s veto session. Kendal Smith, Gov. Phil Scott’s director of policy development and legislative affairs, sent a response late Wednesday to the changes proposed last week by Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, and Rep. Maxine Grad, D-Moretown. “I think it’s workable,” Sears told the Vermont Press Bureau. “The response has generally been somewhat positive. A little confusion about some of the points he makes and trying to make sure we get it all right.”

“I don’t think that we’re so far apart that we can’t reach some kind of agreement,” Sears added. Continue Reading →

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key lawmakers craft legal pot compromise

MONTPELIER — Key lawmakers have sent a proposal to Gov. Phil Scott that makes changes to a marijuana legalization bill he vetoed last month ahead of next week’s veto session. Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said language he crafted with House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Maxine Grad was sent to the governor’s office Thursday. The two lawmakers are awaiting feedback from the governor on their plan to address his concerns with S.22, which was vetoed by Scott on May 24. “I’ve been working with several other senators and met last week … with Maxine Grad and we agreed on a new proposal. We sent copies of the proposal to the governor. Continue Reading →

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Scott vetoes pot legalization, offers path forward

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed a marijuana legalization bill but said Wednesday he will reconsider signing it if lawmakers make changes during a veto session next month. Scott’s announcement at a news conference Wednesday ended days of speculation about the bill’s fate, but it opened the door to even more intense lobbying and campaigning in the weeks leading up to the June 21 veto session. It also halts — at least temporarily — the potential for Vermont to become the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use through the legislative process. Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana, but all did so through voter referendums.

“I am returning this bill to the Legislature. I am, however, offering a path forward that takes a much more thorough look at what public health, safety and education policies are needed before Vermont moves toward a regulatory and revenue system for an adult-use marijuana market,” the governor said. Continue Reading →

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House sends pot legalization bill to the governor

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House concurred Wednesday with a Senate-passed bill to legalize marijuana, becoming the first Legislature in the country to send a recreational marijuana legalization bill to a governor to become law. The bill, S.22, was passed by the House on a 79-66 vote after appearing to be dead several times since the legislative session began in January. It followed an untraditional path through the Legislature to make it to Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who said Wednesday he remains unsure if he will veto it. While other states have already legalized marijuana, those states were compelled to act by voter-approved referendums. The Vermont General Assembly is the first legislative body in the country to have two chambers approve legalization for recreational marijuana use. Under the legislation, people 21 and older will be allowed to legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana beginning July 1, 2018. Continue Reading →

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Senate passes marijuana legalization bill with tax-and-regulate language

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate, frustrated by inaction in the House and hoping to apply pressure on the chamber down the hall, advanced a seed-to-sale marijuana legalization bill Friday by a veto-proof margin. The action in the Senate Friday was no surprise — members of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday a plan to amend a House bill to include language creating a tax-and-regulate legal marijuana market in Vermont. After clearing procedural hurdles, the effort prevailed on a 21 to 9 vote — large enough to override a potential veto by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, was the lead sponsor of the amendment that mimics legislation passed last year by the Senate, but failed spectacularly in the House. Members of the Senate were expecting the House to pass its own version of marijuana legalization this year, but that effort stalled when the bill made it to the House only to be jettisoned by Democratic leaders in the House back to committee because it lacked the votes to pass. 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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Senate passes bill to limit Trump’s executive orders

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate advanced a bill on a unanimous vote Thursday that aims to keep state, county and local law enforcement agencies from helping federal authorities enforce immigration laws. All 30 senators — including seven Republicans — voted in favor of the legislation, sending it to a final vote Friday. The bill was crafted by Republican Gov. Phil Scott, Democratic Attorney General T.J. Donovan and lawmakers in response to a series of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump regarding immigration enforcement and border security. The bill grants the governor sole authority to approve agreements that would, in effect, deputize state, county or local police officers to enforce federal immigration law. One of the president’s executive orders calls for such agreements to help federal authorities. Continue Reading →

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Watch: Capital Beat with Reps. Grad and Burditt and Sen. Sears

Vermont Press Bureau chief Neal Goswami speaks with Reps. Maxine Grad and Thomas Burditt and Sen. Dick Sears about marijuana legalization and expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program. Capital beat airs on Vermont PBS Plus Monday nights at 8:30 p.m. Continue Reading →

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