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“A lethal combination” in the Lumumba homicide

The apparent murder of Anako Lumumba, a 33-year-old South Burlington nurse who was allegedly killed by her boyfriend Leroy Headley, has set off an interstate manhunt. It’s also renewed a statewide conversation about firearms and domestic violence. Lumumba had sought two relief-from-abuse orders against Headley in 2017. But both were vacated before being finalized, limiting law enforcement’s ability to intervene. Auburn Watersong, the policy director at the Vermont Network Against Domestic...


$5.8 billion in 15 minutes

Before adjourning last weekend, the Vermont Legislature passed a budget for the 2019 fiscal year. Gov. Phil Scott says he’ll veto it over a disagreement about the use of one-time money, but the general framework is not likely to change. And it provides the answer to an obvious question: How does the state spend its money? On this week’s podcast, learn about every major spending category in Vermont’s $5.8 billion blueprint, from administering the broad-ranging Agency of Human Services to...


Raising the wage divides Vermont Dems

Two policies aimed at lifting up low-income Vermonters took unusual paths to passage this week. Bills to raise the state’s minimum wage and provide workers with paid family leave were priorities of Democratic leaders throughout the session. Both have drawn opposition from Gov. Phil Scott, who says they will burden businesses and harm Vermont’s economy. Republican lawmakers have concurred with the governor. But last week, key committees brought each bill to the floor without members’...


Conflict in chemical laws

Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of S.103, a bill to regulate toxic chemicals, was upheld this week by nearly the entire House Republican caucus. The move frustrated both environmental advocates and the Bennington delegation, who supported the proposal for its response to dangerous PFOA contamination in their districts. But the effort to suppress new environmental regulations may not be the last this session. Another bill, S.197, would raise polluters’ liability for harming residents. While it...


Precedent and politics in the Sawyer case

The case of a Poultney teen accused of plotting a school shooting in Fair Haven has already drawn attention for inspiring the historic set of gun restrictions signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott last week. Now, as Sawyer’s legal proceedings carry on, the details of his case are leading lawmakers to reexamine the state’s definition of what constitutes an attempt to commit a crime. Sawyer exchanged messages and wrote a journal about committing mass murder, purchased a shotgun and detailed...


Ashe and Johnson’s endgame

Last month, Gov. Phil Scott sent legislators a memo targeting 15 bills that he said he’d veto over proposed taxes and fees. “Let’s work together to find ways for many of the proposals to advance, while respecting the need to provide Vermonters with another year of relief,” he wrote. Now, with the end of the session weeks away, the leaders of both chambers of the Legislature are considering their options for policies they want to advance in spite of the governor’s pledge. “The governor...


All eyes on Mueller

For almost a year, the Justice Department investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has been a constant topic of interest in Washington, D.C. While new information in the case is released at a careful pace, the resulting subpoenas and indictments have dominated dozens of news cycles. According to one local expert, that’s not likely to change anytime soon. “I think we’re probably somewhere around the third or the fourth inning of...


Inside the CoverageCo collapse

Grace Cottage Hospital, at one time the only hospital in Vermont with no cell phone service, was finally connected in June 2017. Now, less than one year later, that signal may disappear. Vanu CoverageCo, a company that used new technology to provide cell service to major corridors and hotspots in dozens of rural Vermont towns, is on the brink of dissolving. The company is in debt to the electrical and internet utilities that make its service possible, and the revenue it brings in from...


“Common Sense” in Car Inspections

After the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles rolled out an electronic vehicle inspection system in March 2017, drivers began to notice inspection-related repair bills creeping upward. The DMV’s guidelines haven’t changed, critics note, but the new, computerized system overrides mechanics’ ability to use ”common sense” when considering minor violations. The state is responding to the backlash with new legislation and a rewrite of its inspection rules. But those changes, if passed, likely...


Students Speak Out

This Wednesday, young people across the country walked out of their schools to demand an end to gun violence. In Vermont, students not only fought discouragement from education leaders, but also a winter storm that shut down school districts across the state, in order to get their message out. The walkouts were the latest step in a rising wave of student activism following the shooting last month in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed. Students have staged high-profile...


Tracking Town Meetings

On Tuesday, residents of Vermont’s 246 municipalities turned out to vote on matters both local and global. Town meeting resolutions ranged from how to spend money in local school districts to how the state should fight climate change. “It’s really democracy on a human scale,” says Rich Clark, a political science professor and director of the Polling Institute at Castleton University. Clark is concerned that with more towns moving to the impersonal Australian ballot, Vermont’s town...


In the Zone: Voices From the F-35 Debate

South Burlington’s Chamberlin neighborhood sits just west of the Burlington International Airport and the Vermont Air National Guard base. In the fall of 2019, the Air Force plans to station eighteen F-35 fighter jets at the base. The military’s own environmental impact data has residents concerned about how the jets will affect their neighborhood, a neighborhood that’s already seen decades of changes related to the airport’s expansion. The decision to move forward with the project set...


Burlington Candidates in Conversation

Livability issues dominated Thursday night’s mayoral candidate forum in Burlington. As Mayor Miro Weinberger highlighted his administration’s accomplishments in housing and infrastructure development over the past six years, independent candidates Carina Driscoll and Infinite Culcleasure suggested that the mayor runs the city too much like a business. VTDigger’s Burlington reporter Cory Dawson says that after weeks of campaigning, the candidates have settled into a rhythm. And while...


Vermonters Take Pyeongchang

Starting this week, about 30 athletes with Vermont ties are competing for Team USA in the 2018 Winter Olympics. VTDigger’s Kevin O’Connor has been checking in with Olympic coaches, sportswriters, athletes and their families. On this week’s podcast, he talks about what to watch for in this year’s games. Hopefuls range from veteran snowboarder Kelly Clark to newcomer Caroline Claire, a skier who’s also a high school senior. Five competitors come from families with multiple generations of...


Grappling with Gun Rights

Three bills under consideration in the Legislature have reopened the longstanding debate over gun rights in Vermont. At a crowded public hearing Tuesday, dozens of Vermonters testified about why they thought new gun safety measures should — or shouldn’t — advance. Members of gun owners groups argued that these bills would do nothing to make the state safer, and warned that minor restrictions on gun rights could lead to more drastic bills in the future. Supporters of the legislation...


A “Caretaker” Budget

On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott laid out his funding priorities in a 40-minute speech to the Legislature. Scott’s 2019 budget maintains his pledge to avoid increasing taxes and fees, and offers only modest proposals for new spending. Or, as Finance Commissioner Adam Greshin put it in a press briefing that same day, “There are no bells and there are no whistles in this budget.” Democratic legislators, who responded to the speech Tuesday afternoon, said the governor’s proposal lacked specifics...


Scott’s Prison Plan

This week, the Agency of Human Services announced a plan to build a $150 million prison complex in northwestern Vermont. The project is part of a broader proposal to restructure several correctional and mental health facilities around the state. Critics say the new plan opens a door for disreputable private prison companies to do business with the state. CoreCivic, whose operations in other states have been widely criticized, is already lobbying to be involved. But the potential for...


The Path to Legalization

This week, a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana cleared the Vermont Senate. Gov. Phil Scott has indicated that he’ll sign it into law, which would make Vermont the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through legislation rather than by voter initiative. Lawmakers took up H.511 on the first day of the 2018 session. But the bill’s path to the governor’s desk has been a long one. A proposal to create a taxed and regulated retail marijuana market stalled in the last...


Striking the Gavel on 2018

The first two days of the 2018 legislative session saw lawmakers getting quickly back to work. Contentious legislation to legalize marijuana passed in the House, while legislative leaders and the governor laid out their priorities for the coming months. Gov. Phil Scott, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate leader Tim Ashe all share concerns about residents who have trouble keeping up with the cost of living in Vermont. But in comments this week, their views on affordability...


See You at the Statehouse

Vermont’s legislative leaders previewed their priorities for 2018 in a press conference this week. House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe plan to advance legislation on a range of issues, including clean water, mental health and a $15 minimum wage. With Gov. Phil Scott’s administration maintaining a push for level-funded budgets, debates loom over how to pay for new proposals. Uncertainty from the federal government threatens to complicate certain processes. And...


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