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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Bernie Sanders
Leahy, Sanders Split on Trump Trade Deal

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2020 at 7:09 PM

Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders
Vermont's two U.S. senators on Thursday landed on opposite sides of a vote to approve an updated North American Free Trade Agreement. By an 89-10 vote, the Senate passed the trade pact, which President Donald Trump has dubbed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) backed the deal, calling it a reasonable compromise that would boost Vermont's export economy and dairy industry. But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) opposed it, arguing that it failed to address climate change and would not stanch the flow of American jobs to Mexico. The third member of Vermont's congressional delegation, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), voted for the deal when it passed the House last month.

The trade deal, which now goes to the president for his signature, was years in the making. First negotiated by the Trump administration, it was significantly revised last year in order to win support from the Democratic House. The pact won the support of many labor unions, including the AFL-CIO, but it was panned by environmental groups.

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Bernie Sanders
When Bernie Sanders Said He'd Do More for Women Than Vermont's First Female Governor

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2020 at 2:05 PM

Bernie Sanders - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Bernie Sanders
Former governor Madeleine Kunin still recoils at a male opponent's claim that, as she recalls it, he'd be "more pro-female than me."

When Kunin, Vermont's first — and, to this day, only — female governor, ran for reelection in 1986, Burlington mayor Bernie Sanders told voters that he would do more for women if they replaced her with him.

"He claimed to be a better feminist than I was," Kunin said this week in an interview with Seven Days. "It shocked me at the time."

Sanders, now a U.S. senator seeking the presidency, has faced heightened scrutiny over his views on women in politics since CNN reported Monday that he'd declared in a private meeting that a woman could not win the White House in 2020. The other participant in the December 2018 meeting, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), confirmed the report.

"Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate," said Warren, who is also running for president. "I thought a woman could win; he disagreed."

Sanders has denied the story. "Well, as a matter of fact, I didn't say it," Sanders responded when asked about the alleged remark at a Democratic debate Tuesday in Des Moines, Iowa. "Anybody knows me knows that it's incomprehensible that I would think that a woman cannot be president of the United States."

Kunin, whose path to power in the 1980s coincided and sometimes conflicted with Sanders', doesn't believe her former rival. "As far as the conversation between he and Elizabeth Warren, I tend to believe her, since she's been such a straight arrow on everything else," Kunin said.

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Legislators Set Their Sights on New Gun Restrictions

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2020 at 12:35 AM

Adolphe Lumumba testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday - PAUL HEINTZ
  • Paul Heintz
  • Adolphe Lumumba testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday
Anako Lumumba tried to protect herself from an abusive ex, her brother told Vermont lawmakers on Wednesday. "But the system wasn't enough to take the guns away from the guy," Adolphe Lumumba said.

In May 2018, police have alleged, Leroy Headley shot Anako to death in the South Burlington home they once shared. She had repeatedly reported his threatening behavior to police — twice in the week before she was killed — but Headley still had legal access to firearms.

Reps. Maxine Grad (D-Moretown) and Martin LaLonde (D-South Burlington) are seeking to prevent such tragedies. The chair and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee have introduced legislation that would require subjects of a restraining order to surrender their firearms. Their bill, H.610, would also expand the state's new "red flag law" to allow family and household members — not just law enforcement officials — to seek extreme risk protection orders, which allow for the temporary confiscation of firearms from those deemed dangerous.

Adolphe Lumumba told their committee that the bill might have helped Anako.

"I'm not here today to save my sister, but I know there's other people out there who can be saved by this," he said. "This is something my sister would have wanted, too."

The measure is one of several firearms-related bills lawmakers are considering this session.

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Vermont Lawmakers Strike a Deal on Paid Family Leave

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2020 at 10:12 PM

Members of the conference committee on a paid family leave bill - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • Members of the conference committee on a paid family leave bill
Vermont lawmakers struck a tentative deal Wednesday on a compromise bill for a paid family and medical leave program, a goal that eluded them during last session’s impasse.

A negotiating team made up of three senators and three representatives hammered out the deal during two days of what Rep. Tom Stevens (D-Waterbury) called “rough and tumble” negotiations.

 While he was disappointed that a key disability insurance provision was not included in the bill, Stevens said he was nevertheless proud of the committee’s accomplishment.

“I think we have to start, and this is a great starting place,” Stevens said.

That theme — that the compromise was the beginning and not the end of the quest for agreement — ran through the remarks of the negotiating team.
Sen. Michael Sirotkin (D-Chittenden) said he wished they could have found ways to make the program stronger.

“We just had to deal with the realities of the building, at this point,” Sirotkin said. “We couldn’t get everything we wanted, but I do think this is a meaningful step.”

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Three Childcare Centers Serving 90 Vermont Youngsters to Close

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2020 at 5:49 PM

Rekaroo's Childcare in Rutland - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • Rekaroo's Childcare in Rutland
Three Loveworks childcare centers that serve 90 infants, toddlers and preschoolers will close March 13 due to budget woes. 

The company sent parents an email Tuesday announcing that Loveworks sites in Milton and Montpelier as well as one on Williston Road in South Burlington will all be shuttered.

Two other Loveworks childcare centers, one on Shelburne Road in South Burlington and another in Essex, will remain open. But they must raise tuition 12 percent, effective February 28.

All five centers were losing money, and the restructuring is designed to keep two open, said Amanda Goodwin, director of marketing and communications for Little Sprouts, the Lawrence, Mass., company that owns the centers.

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Two Bills in the Vermont House Would Boost Legislators' Pay

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2020 at 4:53 PM

Rep. Jim McCullough (D-Williston) on the Vermont House floor - FILE
  • File
  • Rep. Jim McCullough (D-Williston) on the Vermont House floor
Some Vermont lawmakers want to raise the minimum wage. And some want to raise their own pay. House members recently introduced two bills to boost salaries for the part-time legislature.

Rep. Jim McCullough (D-Williston) last week floated a bill to increase the pay of committee chairs and leaders of both the House and Senate by 20 percent. “Leadership has much greater responsibilities than the rank and file,” McCullough said. “That means more work.”

His bill, H.614, calls for bumps for the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate, both of whom already make more than their colleagues.

Regular members of the House and Senate earn $743 for each week of the legislative session. The typical session is 18 weeks, which results in annual pay around $13,372. They get annual pay raises tied to inflation rates.

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DMV Settles With Migrant Justice Over Its Role In ICE Crackdown

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2020 at 2:35 PM

Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique Balcazar, left, and Will Lambek - COLIN FLANDERS
  • Colin Flanders
  • Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique Balcazar, left, and Will Lambek
Updated at 3:59 p.m.

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles committed to policy changes and antidiscrimination training to settle legal claims that its employees aided immigration authorities' crackdown on undocumented activists.

Migrant Justice, an advocacy group for undocumented farmworkers that sued the DMV and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in November 2018, announced the settlement Wednesday at the Vermont Statehouse.

"This agreement will create a set of protections that will be strong enough to guarantee the safety and security for all," Migrant Justice spokesperson Enrique Balcazar said through an interpreter.

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Ingram Declares Her Candidacy for Lieutenant Governor

Posted By on Wed, Jan 15, 2020 at 9:03 AM

  • Sen. Debbie Ingram
Sen. Debbie Ingram (D-Chittenden) announced Wednesday that she will run for lieutenant governor.

Ingram, who told Seven Days last week that she was "leaning towards" joining the race, confirmed her plans in an email.

"Since the LG post is mostly a 'create your own adventure' kind of job, with few designated duties, it is the perfect platform to listen to people and to bring them together — two practices we don’t see enough of in our society today," she wrote.

An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and executive director of Vermont Interfaith Action, Ingram was first elected to the Senate in 2016. The Williston resident previously served on her town’s selectboard.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Ram and Giambatista Announce Bids for Vermont Senate

Posted By on Tue, Jan 14, 2020 at 8:40 AM

Dylan Giambatista and Kesha Ram - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Dylan Giambatista and Kesha Ram
Updated 3:32 p.m.

Former Vermont legislator Kesha Ram and State Rep. Dylan Giambatista (D-Essex) separately announced Tuesday that they will each seek one of Chittenden County’s six Senate seats this November, in two of the latest of a cascade of political declarations since Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman announced his run for governor.

  • Courtesy photo
  • Louis Meyers
A third candidate, Louis Meyers, an internal medicine physician at Rutland Regional Medical Center and a past Senate candidate, also said he would run. A physician's experience would benefit the Senate on health care issues, he said.

Ram, 33, told Seven Days that she is seeking to return to the legislature after a four-year hiatus. She was elected to the House at age 22 and served four terms representing Burlington. In 2016, she ran for lieutenant governor, finishing third in the Democratic primary. She now works as a social and environmental equity consultant.

Ram has named Skyler Nash, a member of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, as her campaign manager, and a press release announcing her candidacy included endorsements from Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George and Rep. Hal Colston (D-Winooski).

“I’ve always been a relationship builder, someone who strives to build consensus with conviction," Ram said in a phone interview. "I want to help restore that faith that we can work together to get important things done for Vermonters."

Giambatista, 33, shared his plans Tuesday morning on WVMT’s "The Morning Drive" radio show. Giambatista told Seven Days that the opportunity to serve a broader area appeals to him. He is in his second term and sits on the House Committee on Education.

A lifelong Vermonter, Giambatista worked as chief of staff to then-House speaker Shap Smith from 2014 to 2016 prior to taking a job in the Office of the State Treasurer. Before he became a politician, he was best known as a founding member and lead guitarist of the Vermont punk band Rough Francis.

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Monday, January 13, 2020

It's Official: Zuckerman Challenges Scott for Governor of Vermont

Posted By on Mon, Jan 13, 2020 at 7:49 PM

David Zuckerman announcing his candidacy for governor - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • David Zuckerman announcing his candidacy for governor
Updated 1:30 p.m.

After a week of playing coy, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman has officially confirmed that he will run for governor.

The Progressive/Democrat formally declared his candidacy for Vermont's top office during a Monday morning press conference at the Capitol Plaza Hotel.

“Through the years, I have listened to many Vermonters as they have shared their economic struggles, and I’ve observed well-intentioned leaders trying to find solutions,” Zuckerman said. “But these last three years, we have not seen the vision or action that Vermonters need.”

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