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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Scott Vetoes Vermont State Budget, Tax Bills

Posted By on Sat, May 26, 2018 at 11:46 AM

  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott kicked off his Memorial Day weekend by vetoing the budget and tax bills that the legislature passed before adjourning earlier this month.

“My primary objection to the bills … is that together they result in an unnecessary and avoidable $33 million increase in statewide property tax rates,” Scott wrote in a letter to lawmakers explaining his vetoes.

In anticipation of his veto of the budget, Scott summoned lawmakers to Montpelier Wednesday for a special session. Now the administration must come to an agreement with lawmakers by July 1 in order to avoid a shutdown of the state government.

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Friday, May 25, 2018

New Chinese Environmental Policy Hits Vermont Recycling Programs

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2018 at 12:47 PM

Recycling bins by the curb on Lake Street in Burlington - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Recycling bins by the curb on Lake Street in Burlington
Recycling costs are going up for Chittenden County residents as the region's municipal waste authority adjusts to a sharp decline in the sale value of paper recyclables.

The Chittenden Solid Waste District increased the tipping fee — the charge for haulers who bring recycling to its Williston facility — on May 1. Another increase is likely soon, possibly in the next few months. Some haulers have already decided to pass the increase on to consumers.

The hikes come in response to the plummeting value of paper recyclables as China, which had been the world's largest consumer of recycling, ushers in strict new environmental regulations and stops accepting most mixed paper. The shift has put recycling programs around Europe and the U.S. into disarray. Vermont is also feeling the pinch.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Burlington Fishing Pier to Close During Marina Construction

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 6:38 PM

The Burlington fishing pier - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • The Burlington fishing pier
Don't plan on casting from the Burlington fishing pier this summer.

The city will close the public jetty into Lake Champlain as early as next week when construction begins on the 160-slip Burlington Harbor Marina.

The long-planned project will snug in just south of the pier and around the point from the U.S. Coast Guard station on the northern section of the Burlington waterfront. Bulldozers are already in place near the site off Penny Lane, next to the Burlington Water Resources Department and just south of the Moran Plant.

The pier will likely be closed for the entire summer.

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Despite Opponents' Efforts, F-35s Still Scheduled for Burlington

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 5:25 PM

An F-35 - FILE
  • File
  • An F-35
Citizen efforts to halt the arrival of the F-35 fighter jets appear to have come up short.

Secretary of the U.S. Air Force Heather Wilson confirmed this week that the planes are still on schedule to arrive at Burlington International Airport next year.

The letter dated May 22 from Wilson to Mayor Miro Weinberger came in response to a city council resolution that requested the Air Force find a new mission for the Vermont Air National Guard. The resolution also included a series of questions about the safety and noise of the planes.

The Air Force's response? The basing is a done deal.

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Judge Skeptical of Request to Move Trial of Driver in Crash That Killed Five

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 2:21 PM

Steven Bourgoin, left, with defense attorney Bob Katims, center - SARA TABIN
  • Sara Tabin
  • Steven Bourgoin, left, with defense attorney Bob Katims, center
Print media still matters.

A defense motion to move the trial for Steven Bourgoin, accused of killing five teens in an intentional head-on car crash in 2016, was derailed Thursday because Judge Kevin Griffin couldn't access online stories about the case on the Burlington Free Press website.

Bourgoin's attorneys, Bob Katims and Sara Puls, submitted examples of media coverage of the case to argue that a fair and impartial jury could not be found in Chittenden County. But Griffin said Thursday he could not complete a thorough examination of the evidence because he was stymied by the Free Press' subscription paywall.

Hair and beard long and unkempt, Bourgoin stared down at the table before him during much of the hearing. The defendant, who has gained weight during his time in custody, did not speak to the judge but talked quietly with his lawyers. Bourgoin intends to offer an insanity defense.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Walters: Scott, Legislature Remain at Odds

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 8:18 PM

Reps. Kitty Toll, Janet Ancel and David Sharpe convene a multi-committee hearing Wednesday. - JOHN WALTERS
  • John Walters
  • Reps. Kitty Toll, Janet Ancel and David Sharpe convene a multi-committee hearing Wednesday.
The Vermont legislature began a special session Wednesday as ordered by Gov. Phil Scott. After brief floor sessions, key House and Senate committees heard presentations from administration officials and their own fiscal analysts — and it became clear that nothing has really changed.

If anything, the two sides were a bit further apart than they were a week and a half ago, when the legislature adjourned after approving tax and budget bills that the governor promised to veto. Presentations by administration officials Wednesday were met with a barrage of skeptical questions, and their answers did not satisfy majority Democrats.

The administration is still presenting virtually the same plan it put forward in early May. "I didn't see any changes from what they presented before," said Rep. Janet Ancel (D-Calais), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, after the House hearing.

Scott's plan still calls for the use of onetime money to keep property tax rates level for the fiscal year starting July 1, although the amount of those funds has shrunk from $58 million to $44 million. Scott says the money would be paid back over five years with some of the savings realized through his proposal to rein in school costs. The administration estimates the savings at $300 million.

Administration projections of those savings are profoundly different than those of legislative analysts — which leaves lawmakers in a state of uncertainty.

"I'm very concerned with these aggressive savings without seeing any analysis behind it," said Rep. Kitty Toll (D-Danville), chair of the House Appropriations Committee. "In early May, I asked the administration for the analysis for some of the proposals, and I didn't receive anything."

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Lunderville to Leave Burlington Electric, Serve as CEDO Director

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 2:28 PM

Neale Lunderville - FILE: MATTHEW THORSEN
  • File: Matthew Thorsen
  • Neale Lunderville
Mayor Miro Weinberger has appointed Burlington Electric Department general manager Neale Lunderville to serve as interim director of the city's Community & Economic Development Office.

Lunderville will replace Noelle MacKay, who announced last month that she will step down to take a job at the Regulatory Assistance Project, a renewable energy nonprofit in Montpelier.

He'll start as acting CEDO head at the end of this week and, if the city council approves the appointment, would begin as interim director on July 16. He'd stop working for Burlington Electric at that time, according to a city press release.

Lunderville would serve until December of this year and, according to a memo from Weinberger, does not plan to apply for the permanent CEDO post. The city would conduct a national search to fill Lunderville's old job at Burlington Electric.

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Walters: Botzow Becomes Fifth Vermont House Chair to Retire

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 12:46 PM

Rep. Bill Botzow introduces Kesha Ram at her October 2015 lieutenant gubernatorial campaign kickoff in Burlington - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Rep. Bill Botzow introduces Kesha Ram at her October 2015 lieutenant gubernatorial campaign kickoff in Burlington
Yet another committee chair is leaving the Vermont House.

Rep. Bill Botzow (D-Pownal), who runs the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee, announced in a letter to constituents that he will not seek a ninth term this fall. The Bennington Banner first reported his decision.

"I thought hard about it. I'm at peace with the decision," Botzow told Seven Days. "Sixteen years. I've got a life. I have responsibilities and hopefully opportunities. I thought hard about it." He added that former representative Martha Heath once told him about retirement, "You just know when you know."

Botzow is the fifth House chair to announce his departure this year, following Rep. Helen Head (D-South Burlington) of the General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee; Rep. David Sharpe (D-Bristol) of the Education Committee; Rep. David Deen (D-Westminster) of the Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee; and Rep. Stephen Carr (D-Brandon) of the Energy and Technology Committee.

Two Senate committee chairs are also stepping down: Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland) of the Institutions Committee and Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison) of the Health and Welfare Committee.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Walters: Rodgers Will Not Run for Vermont Governor

Posted By on Tue, May 22, 2018 at 9:36 PM

Sen. John Rodgers - FILE: PAUL HEINTZ
  • File: Paul Heintz
  • Sen. John Rodgers
Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex/Orleans) said Tuesday night that he has decided not to run for governor. Rodgers, a vocal supporter of gun rights, had floated the idea of a candidacy as Gov. Phil Scott prepared to sign a series of gun restrictions into law last month.

"I have mixed feelings," said Rodgers, a resident of Glover. "The governor has disappointed a lot of people. They're looking for an option."

But it won't be him. "I basically decided there was no way I had time to pull it together," he explained. Rodgers owns a construction firm and the spring and summer are his busy seasons. He will run for reelection to the Senate, however.

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Scott Vetoes Minimum Wage, Paid Family Leave Bills

Posted By on Tue, May 22, 2018 at 6:04 PM

  • File: Alicia Freese
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Updated at 8:18 p.m.

Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have raised Vermont’s minimum wage to $15 and established a paid family leave program.

The high-profile vetoes came as the governor grappled with a midnight deadline to determine the fate of more than three dozen bills. In total, according to a spokesperson, Scott signed 38 bills into law on Monday and Tuesday; he allowed two to become law without his signature, and he vetoed four.

Scott previously vetoed legislation regulating toxic chemicals, and he is expected to do the same to the state budget and tax bills.

The legislature likely won’t be able to override the governor’s vetoes because Democrats in the House lack the two-thirds majority required to do so.

Scott’s decision to veto the minimum wage and paid leave bills came as no surprise. He expressed his opposition to both measures throughout the legislative session. But the move is nevertheless a blow to two signature progressive causes. The vetoes drew immediate rebukes from Democratic lawmakers and advocates.

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