Vermont Legislature

The Vermont Republican Party is hoping to leverage the power of the crowd in its efforts to track problems with Vermont Health Connect, the state’s health insurance exchange.

A new website operated by the party, VT Health Report, offers users a form where they can provide their name, email address, town, zip code, and their experience with Vermont Health Connect.

Angela Evancie / VPR

Looming increases in the statewide property tax rate have prompted calls for education financing reform. But the most powerful Democrats in Montpelier say they’re not yet convinced that Vermont’s school funding system needs fixing.

VT DEC

Lawmakers are again seeking new environmental protections for the more than 200 lakes and ponds scattered across Vermont. But, as was the case last year, the push for shorelands legislation is running into resistance from some waterfront property owners.

A new campaign finance bill that would regulate contributions for state and local officials seems likely to pass after a conference committee merged differing legislation from the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Critics say the bill allows more money into Vermont’s politics, a reality proponents say will keep money from independent expenditure political action committees, better known as Super PACs, from drowning out political parties.

VPR/Angela Evancie

Vermont’s legislative session began this week. Governor Peter Shumlin delivered his State of the State speech, and now lawmakers are beginning the work it’ll take to check off items on a long to-do list. For a look at the coming legislative session we turn to VPR’s Bob Kinzel, who will join us on Saturday mornings for a close look at the goings-on in Montpelier.
 

Listen to the full audio of Gov. Peter Shumlin's State of the State address, delivered in the Vermont Statehouse on Jan. 8, 2014.

Download a PDF of the address and read the speech embedded below.

Angela Evancie / VPR

Gov. Peter Shumlin devoted Wednesday's State of the State Address to the problem of opiate addiction, outlining a four-point plan that is meant tackle the public health and criminal consequences of opiate addiction. Friday on Vermont Edition, Shumlin discusses his plan with Bob Kinzel.

National Multiple Sclerosis Society New England Chapter

Sen. Sally Fox, D-Chittenden, an advocate for the poor and a longtime lawmaker, died Thursday night after a battle with a rare form of lung cancer. She was 62.

Fox was elected to the Senate in 2010 and served seven terms in the Vermont House of Representatives before that. In the Senate, the South Burlington Democrat was an assistant majority whip and was co-chair of the Mental Health Oversight Committee.

Fox was known as an advocate for poor and underprivileged Vermonters. She focused especially on poverty and healthcare issues.

There’s a lot of discussion at the Statehouse about the rising burden of property taxes because for the second year in a row, there’s going to be a sizeable increase in the statewide property tax rate for education. This year the rate is scheduled to rise about seven cents.

This is happening because school budgets are increasing, student enrollment is declining, and local grand lists are going up at a relatively slow pace.

Earlier this week, Gov. Peter Shumlin touted progress in fixing problems on the state’s embattled health insurance website. But as lawmakers are hearing from consumer advocates and private insurers, significant hurdles remain.

In a rare appearance before the House and Senate committees on health care Tuesday, Shumlin acknowledged that the exchange has had its issues. But he said the insurance website is slowly but surely becoming a success story. With more than 50,000 Vermonters enrolled in exchange plans, Shumlin said that Vermont has put the worst of its problems behind it.

VPR/Angela Evancie

VPR Reporter Peter Hirschfeld talks with Vermont Edition about the major political stories of the week as the Legislature returned to Montpelier and heard the governor's State of the State address.

AP/Toby Talbot

Three leaders from the Vermont Senate are our guests on the next Vermont Edition: Democrat John Campbell, the president pro temp of the Senate, Republican Joe Benning and Progressive Anthony Pollina. They'll discuss the major issues lawmakers will work in the next few months.

Also in the program, VPR reporter Peter Hirschfeld analyzes the major political stories of the week as Legislature returned to Montpelier and heard the governor's State of the State address.

Live on Thurs., Jan. 9 at noon, and rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Gov. Peter Shumlin says heroin and addiction to opium-based drugs has grown into a full-blown crisis in the state.

To highlight the importance of this issue, the governor devoted his entire State of the State address Wednesday to this single topic. Shumlin says Vermont’s growing heroin and opiate crisis will threaten the future of the state unless steps are taken now. 

Angela Evancie / VPR

Lawmakers began their work in Montpelier this week by taking aim at the many problems facing homeless and impoverished Vermonters.

Three committees held a joint hearing on homelessness and heard from the state’s housing experts in both the public and private sectors.

But the committees heard a more emotional testimony as well ­– from Randolph resident Janeen Morse. After Morse’s mental illness forced her out of her job, she and her grandson became homeless.

Angela Evancie / VPR

Gov. Peter Shumlin has focused his annual address to lawmakers on what he calls a growing epidemic of drug addiction as treatment programs around the state struggle to keep up with a surge in demand for services.

Angela Evancie / VPR

VPR News covered Governor Shumlin's 2014 State of the State address live from the Statehouse in Montpelier. Listen to the speech from the Vermont House on-aironline or mobile, and follow @vprnet on Twitter for live-tweets and photos.

Read full text of the address.

Angela Evancie / VPR

Three committees of the Vermont House were examining issues of homelessness and housing Wednesday, and lawmakers heard that the extremely cold winter has put added pressure on the state’s assistance programs.

David Yacavone is the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families. He told lawmakers that the state will likely double spending this year to house Vermont's homeless during periods of especially cold weather.

Governor Peter Shumlin will give his annual introductory address to the legislature at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.

While the imperative of the State of the State shouldn’t be overstated, it is an important ritual in Montpelier and it can help focus lawmakers attention on an issue.

Governor Peter Shumlin is expected to address what he has called an epidemic of opiate abuse in Vermont, and offer some solutions based on recent reports from the administration.

The state is facing a projected $70 million budget gap for next year and legislative leaders have very different ideas about how to deal with this issue.

Lawmakers have faced sizeable budget gaps for the past few years. They’ve closed these gaps by using federal stimulus money and special state funds, and by reducing spending levels in a number of state programs.

Because the federal money is no longer available, most of the burden of closing the new gap will fall directly on the budget.

Lawmakers have reached a deal that would raise campaign contribution limits to statewide political candidates and allow unlimited contributions from political parties to candidates.

Under proposed campaign finance legislation, all candidates would face increased reporting requirements for their campaign funds, but some would be able to collect more money from individual sources.

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