Xander Landen

MONTPELIER — Universal mail-in voting is now a permanent feature of Vermont’s general elections, under legislation that Gov. Phil Scott signed Monday.  Now, local officials will be required to mail ballots to all registered voters in the weeks leading up to the November general elections, as they did in the fall of 2020.  The state decided to automatically send ballots to voters before last year’s election to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the polls. But after the change helped drive record voter turnout in November, lawmakers moved to make it permanent.  While announcing he had signed the...
MONTPELIER — For nearly 15 months, Gov. Phil Scott has led Vermont through the COVID-19 crisis, relying on immense executive powers granted through the declaration of a state of emergency. Since March 13, 2020, Vermont’s emergency status has served as a vehicle for Scott to implement drastic measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus — limiting Vermonters’ travel, shutting down in-person business operations, directing residents to quarantine and issuing a statewide mask mandate. Over time, the governor has rolled back restrictions, slowly reopening the state. But as virus cases...
MONTPELIER — After sending a $7.35 billion state budget to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk, the Vermont Legislature adjourned this past Friday, ending a historic legislative session marked by remote lawmaking and the state’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For what many hope to be the last time, legislators in the House and Senate met via the teleconferencing app Zoom, displayed in a sea of squares on a YouTube livestream, to pass final pieces of legislation before wrapping up their work for the year. Signs of the abating pandemic were visible Friday as a handful of maskless senators joined...
MONTPELIER — A $100 million broadband expansion bill was approved unanimously Tuesday by the Vermont Senate. The plan would funnel federal dollars both to the state’s communications union districts and small internet service providers to bring fiber to areas with no high-speed broadband. Boosting internet access has been a priority for both lawmakers and Gov. Phil Scott during the Covid-19 pandemic, when children needed broadband to learn remotely and parents needed it too, so they could work from home.  An estimated 60,000 addresses in the state still don’t have an internet connection, or...
VERMONT — Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday unveiled a plan to spend $1 billion of federal COVID-19 aid on major investments in broadband expansion, affordable housing and initiatives to address climate change. If approved by the Legislature, Scott’s proposal would direct $225 million to a broadband plan his administration says would provide high-speed internet to 53,000 Vermont addresses with poor service or none at all. The plan would direct $249 million towards affordable housing, bringing 5,000 new units to market. Vermont’s housing commissioner, Josh Hanford, said the proposal offered the “...
VERMONT — As Vermont continues to grapple with an economic crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday pitched a state budget that preserves state government programs and makes major investments in affordable housing, broadband, higher education, environmental protection and IT modernization.  Until recently, the Scott administration and lawmakers had expected that next year’s budget would require austerity measures and drastic cuts. Officials learned last week, however, that state coffers had been filled to the brim by an infusion of federal dollars since the...
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott on Wednesday unveiled a $400 million economic relief package that aims to ease the strain of the COVID-19 crisis on Vermont businesses, agriculture, and housing. The Scott administration outlined the two-phase proposal, which starts off with $310 million to provide “immediate relief” to businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, at his regular three-times-a-week press conference on the coronavirus crisis. “I know there are too many small business owners who are desperate right now,” Scott said. “Family businesses that have been around for decades...
VERMONT — Gov. Phil Scott declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, taking action to limit the size of public gatherings and suspending some regulations to bolster the health care workforce.  The measure also restricts the number of visitors at psychiatric and elderly care facilities, and expands unemployment insurance to apply to Vermonters who are required to self-isolate or quarantine.  [Read the governor’s full executive order.] There are still only two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Vermont, but the Scott administration stressed the importance of...
MONTPELIER — The Vermont House on Tuesday voted to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of a bill that would raise the minimum wage from $10.96 to $12.55 by 2022. In a 100-49 vote, Democrats were able to just meet the two-thirds majority needed to counteract Scott’s veto pen. The Senate successfully voted to override the veto of the legislation, S.23, earlier this month, meaning the wage increase will now become law. Six out of the eight House Democrats who opposed the minimum wage legislation on the floor in January changed their votes Tuesday, delivering the support needed to enact the...
MONTPELIER — The House Ways and Means Committee advanced legislation this past Wednesday that would legalize a marketplace for marijuana and set a 20% combined tax rate on sales of the substance. The action means the bill, S.54, will likely see a full vote on the House floor in the coming weeks. It represents major movement for the legislation, which stalled in the Ways and Means Committee when it arrived there last year. Under the House bill, which was reported out of committee on a 7-3 vote, cannabis purchases would face a 14% excise tax and a 6% sales tax. The excise tax would send revenue...

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Addison County Independent