Off Message | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Vermont Senate Backs 24-Hour Waiting Period for Gun Sales

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2019 at 6:13 PM

Sen. John Rodgers - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • Sen. John Rodgers

The Vermont Senate on Thursday advanced legislation that would impose a 24-hour waiting period on those purchasing handguns. The preliminary vote came despite opposition from gun-rights supporters, who claimed the bill would infringe upon their rights, and from those who said the restrictions weren't strict enough.

The 20-10 vote suggested that supporters in the Senate would be able to override a potential veto from Gov. Phil Scott, who has expressed opposition to new gun laws. The measure is expected to face a final vote in the Senate on Friday and would then move to the Vermont House.

All six Senate Republicans opposed the bill, as did Sens. Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle), Alice Nitka (D-Windsor), John Rodgers (D-Essex/Orleans) and Bobby Starr (D-Essex/Orleans).

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), said he was proud that the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, found middle ground between the two divergent positions. “I hope folks won’t be put off by the word compromise, because if we’ve come to that, we’re in deep trouble,” Sears said.

Sears, who had previously opposed the measure, said he learned from experts who testified before his committee that suicide attempts with guns are far more successful than by other means, and that those who make such attempts usually do so impulsively.

“The vast majority of the people who decide to commit suicide [do so] based on an impulse, and that decision was made within eight hours,” he said.

If enacted, the law would require gun buyers to wait a day after undergoing a federal criminal background check before taking possession of a firearm.

After the vote, the family of Andrew Black released a statement supporting the Senate's move. The 23-year-old Essex man shot and killed himself in December, hours after buying a gun.

"If this handgun purchase waiting period was the law last year I know it likely would have saved our son’s life,” Alyssa Black wrote. “I sincerely hope that this effort will save other families from experiencing the heartbreak we are going through."

Leading the opposition was Sen. Rodgers, who argued that those who commit mass shootings or suicide are often more influenced by social media than by gun access. “I believe the internet is much more dangerous than firearms are,” Rodgers said.

Similarly, far more teenagers are killed texting while driving than from guns, he said, and yet there is no rush to take phones away from them. He did not mention that lawmakers recently toughened laws against texting while driving.

The Senate rejected an amendment Rodgers offered that would have limited the waiting period to new gun owners. It did approve other suggestions he made, including allowing law enforcement officers from other states and those competing in organized shooting events to possess high-capacity magazines. He said the Second Amendment should not just be viewed as a right for sportsmen.

“It’s about protecting oneself, one’s community, one’s state, one’s country,” Rodgers said.

The Northeast Kingdom Democrat got some backup from Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), who argued that he wouldn’t support a waiting period on a woman’s right to choose, nor would he support one on when newspaper reporters could file their stories.

Benning argued that, while suicides are tragic, there is no evidence that a waiting period would really work. “But make no mistake, it is an impediment placed in the path of someone who would choose to exercise their right to self-defense,” he said.

Sen. Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) said she was disappointed that the bill didn’t impose stricter rules. She grew up in and lives in a rural area and supports firearms for hunting and sport, she said, but is keenly aware of the dangers they present.

“I also know that guns pose a significant public health, domestic violence and public safety threat,” she said. 

The mother of three school-aged children said he she knows firsthand the impact gun violence — especially school shootings — is having on children today. “Our children are stressed and scared and they have been demanding that we do something,” Hardy said.

She said she considered 24 hours too short of a waiting period, noting that many states require waits of a week or more. She also lamented the limitation to handguns, noting that someone could just as easily kill himself, herself or others with a rifle. She said she would support the bill out of the spirit of compromise Sears expressed. 

“More change will come and I will be here in this chamber to help make it happen,” she said.

Tags: , , , ,

Judge Allows Vermont's Opioid Lawsuit Against Purdue Pharma to Proceed

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2019 at 5:49 PM

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan
Vermont's lawsuit against Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma will proceed after a judge denied the company's request to toss out the state's claim that Purdue used deceptive tactics to market the drug.

Chittenden County Superior Court Judge Helen Toor was unmoved by Purdue's argument, among others, that the suit should be dismissed because the opioid epidemic the drugmaker fueled isn't a "public nuisance" under Vermont law.

"It cannot be seriously argued that the impacts of opiate addiction in Vermont have not affected the general public," Toor wrote in a March 18 ruling.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Fee Hike Could Spawn Revenue to Save Salisbury Fish Hatchery

Posted By on Wed, Mar 20, 2019 at 8:56 PM

A child feeding the fish at the hatchery - FILE: MEGAN JAMES/KIDSVT
  • File: Megan James/KidsVT
  • A child feeding the fish at the hatchery

Updated March 21 at 10:04 a.m.

A Vermont fish hatchery slated to close next year over water quality concerns appears to have won a temporary reprieve from Gov. Phil Scott’s budget ax after angler and hunter groups agreed to pay more for licenses.

If approved by the legislature, the deal would provide an additional $310,000 to keep the Salisbury Fish Culture Station open for another year while the state explores ways to prolong its life or move the hatchery operations elsewhere.

“I feel like people have come together in good faith to try to keep the hatchery operating, and they’re working toward that goal,” Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter said Wednesday.

The hatchery, which opened in 1931, raises brook, brown, rainbow and lake trout that produce eggs used by the four other fish hatcheries in the state. Most of the fish stocked in Vermont streams and lakes begin their life cycles in Salisbury.

Wastewater discharged from the facility contains nutrient levels that  exceed water quality standards, according to Julie Moore, secretary of  the Agency of Natural Resources. That water runs into an unnamed tributary of Hanlon Brook that is considered an impaired water body, Moore said.

Upgrading the facility to clean the discharge would cost an estimated $13 million, funds not in the proposed budget. It does include $280,000 to upgrade other hatcheries if Salisbury is forced to close, Porter said. But even if the hatchery operation could be transferred to another facility, the state’s fish production capacity would still drop by 20 percent, he said.

The hatchery deal came to light Tuesday when Rep. Robin Scheu (D-Middlebury) outlined for fellow Democrats the status of a sweeping $9.15 million fee bill making its way through the legislature. The bill calls for raising fees on fishing and hunting licenses by $2 per year, from $26 to $28. Combination licenses would increase $5, from $42 to $47.

That would raise about $150,000 next year. An additional $160,000 would come from the general fund. The Scott administration struck the deal after angling and hunting groups agreed to the modest fee increases to keep the hatchery open for now, Porter said.

Mike Covey, executive director of the Vermont Traditions Coalition, said his members are doing their part and are encouraged to see the Scott administration and legislature doing theirs.

“Hunters, anglers and trappers have long been the backbone of the successful restoration of game and non-game species for all Vermonters and are once more stepping up as expected,” Covey said.

Porter called raising fees a concern. “On the other hand, I think it’s important that we maintain our ability to raise fish for angling and restoration,” he said.

Without the additional funds, the department would have been forced to begin shutting down the facility and laying off some of its four workers.

Porter said his department will analyze a number of future possibilities, including whether the discharge water quality can be improved for less than $13 million.

Moore’s agency has committed to taking another look at how it tests water that leaves the facility, including a method that focuses not on chemical tests but on the health of bugs in the water, she said.

She’s not, however, in favor of just changing the location that water samples come from. About a decade ago the agency moved the sampling spot from Hanlon Brook to the tributary closer to the facility. The goal was to better pinpoint the source of pollution in the brook. Moving the sampling site back to the brook doesn’t seem right to her.

“Then you’re just arguing that the solution to pollution is dilution,” Moore said.

Tags: , , , ,

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Montpeculiar: Legislators Pour Over Vermont's Happy Hour Ban

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2019 at 8:28 PM

  • Zerbor/

A bill to lift Vermont’s prohibition on happy hour received a spirited response from legislators Tuesday.

The oft-debated idea of allowing restaurants, bars and breweries to sell discounted booze for up to two hours a day had some legislators downright tipsy with anticipation.

“How about a field trip to test it?” quipped Rep. John Killacky (D-South Burlington), a member of the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs, which heard the bill pitched for the first time this session.

“I’ve lived in three states and this is the only one that doesn’t have a happy hour,” Rep. Marianna Gamache (R-Swanton) said wistfully. “I think it’s a good idea.”

Committee chair Tom Stevens (D-Waterbury) had a more sober response, reminding his fellow legislators that if the committee seriously considers the bill its members will undoubtedly hear from residents of Burlington — which has three colleges — concerned about young people overindulging.

Stevens noted there are already some “workarounds” of the law, including “appy hour,” for which appetizers are discounted to draw in hungry patrons. Specific beverages can also be discounted all day, which is why Positive Pie in Montpelier sells Heady Topper for $5 on Tuesdays, he noted.

That prompted Rep. Matt Birong (D-Vergennes) to fondly recall how Three Needs Taproom and Brewery in Burlington used this loophole during its “Duff Hour” specials.

“They would tap a keg of Saranac for $2 a pop, until the keg runs out, starting when the Simpsons started at 4:30 p.m.,” Birong said.

Rep. Matthew Trieber (D-Rockingham) said he sponsored the bill in recognition of the tourist trade connected to the state’s unique craft brewers and distillers.

“We thought this may be a way to help some of our restaurants and bar owners capitalize on that a little bit, and allow some of the local breweries to be tried out at a cheaper price,” Trieber said.

The legislator added that 42 other states in the nation allow happy hours, though he noted Massachusetts does not. He expressed openness to limiting the hours or types of drinks allowed to be sold at reduced prices if the committee had concerns. “Anything is better than nothing,” Trieber said.

Stevens said it’s not clear if his committee “has enough juice” to take on the issue this session, but if it did, “It'll be a lively conversation, especially if we start at 5 p.m.”

Tags: , , , , ,

Businesses Fret as Delays Extend Construction on St. Paul Street

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2019 at 5:40 PM

St. Paul Street - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • St. Paul Street
Construction will continue through the summer on a downtown stretch of St. Paul Street after a series of delays on a road improvement project, meaning the road will be closed.

Business owners, who have tolerated construction in the area for years, are worried about having no traffic on St. Paul from Main to Maple streets starting in early April and running through August.

Dick Vaughn, who opened Perky Planet Coffee two months ago on the stretch, said his business relies on foot traffic. The closure “will be devastating,” he said.

The two-block stretch has been a construction site on-and-off for years. The Stratos building was redeveloped in 2014, and Champlain College broke ground on its four-story 194 St. Paul Street student housing complex in 2016.

The latest construction is part of the city's Great Streets Initiative, a renovation of several downtown streets. The finished version of St. Paul will include widened sidewalks, more trees, bike racks, and space for awnings and outdoor seating for restaurants.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , ,

Bernie Sanders
Sanders Campaign Says It's Led by Women

Posted By on Tue, Mar 19, 2019 at 1:32 PM

Bernie Sanders supporters at a rally in Concord, N.H., in March 2019 - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Bernie Sanders supporters at a rally in Concord, N.H., in March 2019
The bros, it seems, are no longer in charge.

Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) presidential campaign said Tuesday that women now make up 70 percent of its national leadership team. It announced 15 new and newish hires for senior positions, including 10 women and at least four people of color.

The news, first reported by the women's lifestyle site Refinery29, appears aimed at addressing criticism that Sanders' 2016 campaign was too white, too male and too Vermonty. Senior adviser Jeff Weaver — a white, male Vermonter — had been promising for months that the 2020 campaign would be far more diverse. One of Sanders' first hires was campaign manager Faiz Shakir, who has been described as the first Muslim American to hold such a position on a major presidential campaign.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, March 15, 2019

House Committee Approves New Vetting for Adjutant General Candidates

Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 6:28 PM

Col. Greg Knight, adjutant general, testifying this week about efforts to reform the state's singular election process - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • Col. Greg Knight, adjutant general, testifying this week about efforts to reform the state's singular election process

Future candidates for Vermont’s top military office would undergo a new vetting process and be elected at a different date under a bill approved Friday by a House committee.

The measure aims to bring some structure and greater accountability to an election process for the state’s adjutant general post, a process candidates and legislators have described as an awkward “free-for-all.” Lawmakers elected Col. Greg Knight adjutant general on February 21.

The bill, unanimously approved by the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee, would create a nine-member Adjutant and Inspector General Nominating Board that would review the credentials of candidates for
the position, which oversees the state’s National Guard.

The board would then forward the names of qualified candidates to the rest of the legislature for election or reelection to the post every two years.

The committee considered whether those names should instead be forwarded to the governor for appointment, but the committee chose to retain legislative control over the election process, Rep. Tom Stevens (D-Waterbury) said.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Bernie Sanders
Sanders Institute to Suspend Operations as Namesake Seeks Presidency

Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 2:19 PM

Dr. Cornel West and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at the Sanders Institute Gathering in November 2018. - FILE: TAYLOR DOBBS
  • File: Taylor Dobbs
  • Dr. Cornel West and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at the Sanders Institute Gathering in November 2018.
The Burlington-based Sanders Institute is winding down its operations as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ramps up his presidential campaign.

The Associated Press first reported Thursday that the nonprofit think tank founded by the senator's wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, and her son, David Driscoll, would stop raising money immediately and close its doors by the end of May. In a press release issued later that evening, the institute said that it was making the move in order to "avoid confusion or even the misperception of any overlap" between the institute and Sanders' presidential campaign.

“We are proud of the work that the Sanders Institute has done to promote progressive solutions to the economic, environmental, racial and social justice challenges that America faces,” Driscoll said in a written statement. “That policy work has always been completely separate from electoral politics. We are taking this step in keeping with that core principle of good governance.”

As a 501c3 nonprofit, the institute is barred from certain lobbying and electoral activities. In an interview with the New York Times, O'Meara Sanders acknowledged that the situation "could become too mushy" if she remained active with the institute while campaigning for her husband.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Bill to Create Waiting Period for Gun Sales Advances in Senate

Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 12:12 PM

Sen. Dick Sears speaks as Sen. John Rodgers, in back, looks on - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Sen. Dick Sears speaks as Sen. John Rodgers, in back, looks on
Updated at 2:08 p.m.

After a bitter debate Friday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee narrowly approved a compromise bill proposed by Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) that would require a 24-hour waiting period for handgun sales in Vermont.

The measure is a scaled-back version of a bill introduced by Sen. Phil Baruth (D/P-Chittenden), who wanted a 48-hour waiting period for all gun sales. His proposal had support from the family of 23-year-old Andrew Black, an Essex man who shot and killed himself in December, hours after purchasing a gun.

Baruth, who sits on the five-member Judiciary Committee, was unable to find two allies for his proposal. Instead, he signed on to Sears' compromise, which still needed support from one more committee member in order to pass.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Bernie Sanders
The Ex-Bernie Staffers Behind Beto’s Campaign

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2019 at 6:07 PM

  • Shannon Drawe |
  • Beto O'Rourke
When former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke finally announced his presidential campaign Thursday morning, an experienced crew of digital strategists was ready to make the most of the moment, through social media engagement and small-dollar fundraising.

It wasn’t their first rodeo. Many of O’Rourke’s key staffers — particularly from his online team — spent the 2016 campaign working for another crowd-pleasing populist: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

At least eight former Sanderistas have decamped to O’Rourke’s campaign, according to online records. Several held top jobs on the Vermonter’s 2016 campaign before joining up with the Texan’s 2018 U.S. Senate race and 2020 presidential run.

“I have friends in both campaigns whose skills and talents I admire, but Bernie’s loss is Beto’s gain,” said Michael Briggs, who served as Sanders’ top spokesman in 2016 and who has not joined a 2020 campaign.

Continue reading »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Recent Comments

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2019 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Website powered by Foundation