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Hometown: South Texas. most of my life I lived in Austin and Dallas
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Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Vermont Marijuana Legalization Bill Could Be Revived

The reports of the marijuana legalization bill's death may have been greatly exaggerated.

The House Human Services Committee expects to discuss the bill next week, according to committee chair Ann Pugh (D-South Burlington). The panel will focus on youth drug prevention programs and the impact legalization could have on young people, she said.

Lawmakers pulled the bill, H.170, from the House floor this week and sent it to the Human Services Committee this week because it lacked the votes to pass. The legislation would allow possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, two plants and four seedlings. It would not legalize sale of the drug.

The bill's sidelining led many to conclude the legislation was dead for the year. Pugh’s comments suggest that might not be the case.

Read more: http://www.sevendaysvt.com/OffMessage/archives/2017/03/31/vermont-marijuana-legalization-bill-could-be-revived

Vermont state workers evacuated over air quality concerns

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. - Dozens of state employees were evacuated from an office building in St. Johnsbury over air quality concerns.

State officials say the building's owner was considering putting the property on the market. This issue surfaced after he hired an environmental consultant to assess the building since there used to be a dry cleaner located there.

Vermont has leased the building on Eastern Avenue for about three decades and 85 employees with human services currently work there. Now, the state is concerned after testing revealed elevated levels of three different contaminants in the airspace of the building's foundation.

We checked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Long-term exposure to PCE, TCE and chloroform have been linked to higher rates of cancer, pregnancy complications, memory loss and kidney and liver damage. The state says they won't know exposure risks for those employees working in the office space until air tests come back on Tuesday.

Read more: http://www.wcax.com/story/35040878/vt-state-workers-evacuated-over-air-quality-concerns

Jay Peak developer Quiros fires legal team; attorneys place lien to get paid

Jay Peak owner Ariel Quiros has fired his lawyers, who have racked up more than $2 million in bills defending him against a federal fraud lawsuit involving $350 million in foreign investors’ funds.

Meanwhile, some of those unpaid attorneys have placed a “charging lien” on any money Quiros may recover from a separate lawsuit he filed against his insurance company seeking coverage for his legal defense.

“Defendant Ariel Quiros has terminated the undersigned law firms and instructed them to do no further work on this matter,” attorney Scott Cosgrove wrote in a motion filed this week in federal court in Miami.

“This motion is not filed for the purposes of delay, and undersigned counsel has taken all steps reasonably practicable to protect the client’s interests,” he added.

Read more: https://vtdigger.org/2017/03/31/quiros-fires-legal-team-attorneys-place-lien-get-paid/

New state Democratic chair once opposed marriage equality

BURLINGTON — The conversion from Republican to Democrat by newly elected Vermont Democratic Party Chair Faisal Gill is a well-known political narrative.

What hasn’t received as much attention is the substance of Republican positions Gill previously espoused. In 2006, as a Virginia Republican mulling a bid for the House of Delegates, Gill participated in a debate where he argued against marriage equality.

Gill appeared on behalf of Virginians for Marriage and the Family Foundation to argue in favor of an amendment on the ballot that would have prevented Virginia from recognizing same-sex marriages or civil unions from other states, including Vermont.

“I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman,” Gill said at the time, according to a report in the Connection Newspapers.

Read more: https://vtdigger.org/2017/03/27/new-state-democratic-chair-once-opposed-marriage-equality/

Two University of Vermont fraternities punished for alcohol violations

BURLINGTON — The University of Vermont has leveled sanctions against two fraternity chapters for alcohol-related violations, school officials say.

Phi Gamma Delta was alleged to have hazed students in September by leading them in drinking games as part of the pledge process. The fraternity also violated alcohol policy because some of the pledges were underage, according to Amy Stevens, vice provost for student affairs.

Phi Gamma Delta was given a four-year suspension of recognition. That means it will need to cease all activities, such as chapter meetings, recruitment, initiation and social gatherings, during that period. An appeal by the chapter was denied, according to a news release.

Stevens said the drinking games and an activity where students drank alcohol from a communal bowl constituted hazing because they put the pledges in “a position where they feel they have to drink to be part of the organization.”

Read more: https://vtdigger.org/2017/03/31/two-uvm-fraternities-punished-alcohol-violations/

Senate backs bill to examine, better fund mental health system

The Vermont Senate unanimously approved a comprehensive mental health bill Thursday that calls for increased pay for mental health workers and a broader look at how to improve the system.

The Senate endorsed the bill, S.133, in a voice vote after senators raised concerns about the number of psychiatric patients waiting in emergency rooms to get proper care. The bill could get final approval in the Senate as early as Friday before moving to the House.

At the time the bill was being discussed on the floor, the Department of Mental Health said it was aware of five adults and one adolescent waiting in emergency rooms for treatment, but that there might be more.

The University of Vermont Medical Center, which has the largest emergency room in the state, reported having five patients waiting, and it’s unclear if those are the same patients in the Department of Mental Health tally.

Read more: https://vtdigger.org/2017/03/30/senate-backs-bill-examine-better-fund-mental-health-system/

Vermont on guard against federal cuts to low-income help

MILTON - Todd Alexander hopes this will be the last winter he has to battle drafts and a dying furnace.

Alexander, a disabled U.S. Coast Guard veteran who receives public assistance to pay his kerosene fuel bills, has been waiting about three years for a federal and state weatherization program to add insulation to his 1980s Milton mobile home. He expects to wait another four or five months. In the meantime he keeps an extra pair of shoes to wear while drinking coffee in the kitchen on cold winter mornings.

"It's going to be night and day," Alexander said, anticipating upgrades that he predicts could save as many as 100 gallons of kerosene each year and replace parts of his furnace.

Alexander is watching warily as President Donald Trump's budget proposes to eliminate the U.S. Department of Energy weatherization program, which contributes about $1.2 million to Vermont's $11.8 million weatherization fund. The bulk of weatherization funding in Vermont comes from a state fuel and electricity tax.

Read more: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/politics/2017/03/29/vt-guard-against-federal-cuts-low-income-liheap-weatherization/99594912/

Vermont budget would end cold-weather motel program

MONTPELIER - Vermont lawmakers are considering a budget that would largely end the practice of buying motel rooms for homeless Vermonters on cold winter nights.

The proposed budget, which is up for debate Thursday in the House of Representatives, would eliminate Vermont's "cold-weather exception" that relaxes housing rules in harsh weather. This year's version of the policy allows people to stay at a motel if the temperature or wind chill is less than 20 degrees, or if the temperature is below 32 degrees with expected precipitation.

The proposal would allow the state to spend up to $200,000 to pay for motel vouchers, which budget-writers say would prevent people from freezing to death on cold nights — but the program would be significantly scaled back and would no longer be an entitlement.

Vermont spent $1.8 million on the cold-weather policy in state fiscal year 2015, according to the Department for Children and Families. Last winter brought fewer chilly nights, and spending dropped to about $344,000.

Read more: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/politics/government/2017/03/29/vt-budget-would-end-cold-weather-motel-program/99771946/

Vermont House finds rare unity in cautious state budget

MONTPELIER - Lawmakers joined across party lines Thursday for unusually harmonious work on taxes and spending, adopting Gov. Phil Scott's fiscal caution but rejecting some of his ideas for shifting money to higher education and economic development.

The House of Representatives voted nearly unanimously to advance the state budget, 143-1. No state budget has received as much support at this point in the process since before 2009. A companion tax bill that relies on stronger enforcement of existing tax laws was approved by a unanimous vote of 138-0.

"The budget before you is based on tough choices and based on compromise," said Rep. Kitty Toll, the Democratic chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, as she introduced the bill. "But most importantly, the budget before you is based on the values that we all share as Vermonters."

The only person to vote against the budget bill, Republican Warren Van Wyck of Ferrisburgh, said he would have liked to see more belt-tightening. But the budget won praise from Progressives, despite concern about line items such as child care and opiate addiction, and charmed Republicans, many of whom had grown accustomed to digging in their heels over hikes in spending.

Read more: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/politics/2017/03/30/vt-house-finds-rare-unity-cautious-state-budget/99741306/

Bill would tighten Vermont birth certificate access

It's easy to get a certified copy of a Vermont birth or death certificate — and state officials say the antiquated system leaves Vermonters vulnerable to fraud and identity theft.

Anyone from any place can file a request for an official Vermont record, without having to show identification. Only two other states, Ohio and Kentucky, have similarly lax laws, according to a report two years ago that cited multiple cases of Vermont birth certificate fraud.

"Anybody can get a copy of a Vermonter's certified copy of their birth certificate," said Rep. Dennis Devereux, R-Mount Holly, who worked on the issue this year in the House Government Operations Committee. "They can be from Russia, they can get a passport, and they can come here. ... That certified fraud paper is worth thousands of dollars on the open market, and it's been a real concern for me having been born in Vermont."

"Talking to citizens, they’re aghast that this is even happening," Wolcott Town Clerk Linda Martin said in a telephone interview.

Read more: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/politics/2017/03/29/bill-would-tighten-vt-birth-certificate-access/99741094/
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