Well, legislators, you’ve gone and done it: You made Secretary of State Jim Condos type out a lengthy email asking you to please follow the campaign finance laws you’ve passed yourself.
On Tuesday morning, Condos sent the entire legislative body a “gentle reminder” to file their latest mandatory campaign finance reports, which were due March 15. VTDigger obtained a copy of Condos’ email.
It’s been two weeks since candidates’ filing deadline and, when he wrote his lecture, roughly half of Vermont legislators had not yet filed.
“I wouldn’t crucify anybody for a week,” he said in a phone call Tuesday afternoon with VTDigger. “But if it’s two weeks, three weeks, four weeks late, I would say you’re a delinquent in filing your report.”
Vermont law mandates that state candidates, including incumbent legislators, file disclosures of their campaign spending and fundraising at 10 intervals throughout each two-year campaign cycle. Despite his advocacy for tighter enforcement, Condos said the Legislature has opted not to enact penalties for tardy filers.
“The penalty would be if Sarah Mearhoff gets wind of somebody who doesn’t file a report on time,” Condos said.
Indeed! I toyed with the idea of listing all of our late filers in this newsletter (I know who you are), but in the words of Condos, “I can’t be their babysitter.”
— Sarah Mearhoff
IN THE KNOW
Mask requirements are loosening up in the Statehouse.
Passed by an 8-0 vote in the Joint Rules Committee Tuesday morning, masks are now “strongly recommended,” but not required, in most areas of the Statehouse. The policy includes visitors.
Surgical-grade or higher masks will still be required in legislative staff areas. And when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deems the Covid-19 transmission rate is high in Washington County (as it is right now), masks will be required in committee rooms.
Tuesday’s agreed-upon rules were a compromise between members who hope to see continued Covid caution in the Capitol and those who have been pushing to loosen restrictions as cases have trended downward.
— Sarah Mearhoff
Some Green Mountain Transit service cuts, first said to be temporary, will likely become permanent this summer. The company outlined its proposal in a letter to the Senate Transportation Committee last Friday.
Members of the Senate Transportation Committee expressed some distaste for the plan during a meeting on Tuesday. Some asked why GMT would reduce service, instead of reinstating fare collection.
“Free is free until it isn’t free anymore. And it sounds like you’ve run out of money,” said Sen. Russ Ingalls, R-Essex/Orleans.
Green Mountain Transit plans to resume fare collection in July, but that could change depending on how legislative action shakes out over the next few weeks. And it looks like there could be a battle looming over the future of zero-fare public transit.
The House funded free public transit in its version of the transportation money bill, which passed the full chamber on Friday. But Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle, has said he disapproves of this, as do other members of the Transportation Committee, which he chairs.
— Riley Robinson
ON THE FIFTH FLOOR
Vermont officials said they did not believe a federal finding that three Vermont counties have “high” Covid-19 community levels should be cause for concern.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that Washington, Essex and Windsor counties had high Covid community levels, while Orleans, Caledonia and Orange counties had medium Covid levels.
But Health Commissioner Mark Levine said at a press conference on Tuesday that the metrics the CDC uses can be skewed because of Vermont’s relatively small size and recent health care staffing patterns.
As of Tuesday, 12 patients were in Vermont hospitals with Covid, none of them in intensive care. Only four of those patients were hospitalized because of the disease, Gov. Phil Scott said.
“I think we’re doing pretty well,” Scott said.
— Erin Petenko
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
The legislative session is marching on and August’s primary election is more than four months away, but 42 current and 20 former state legislators have thrown their support behind Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint’s Democratic run for Congress.
Numerous Balint allies in the Legislature — including Sen. Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden; Rep. Sarah Copeland Hanzas, D-Bradford; Sen. Andrew Perchlik, D/P-Washington; Sen. Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor; and more — gathered on the Statehouse steps Tuesday afternoon to announce their endorsements.
Copeland Hanzas said she is throwing her support behind Balint because she “knows that the goal is not praise, accolades or another step on the proverbial ladder; the point of all we do here is to take care of the needs of the people we represent.”
The laundry list of endorsements includes longtime legislators such as Sen. Ann Cummings, D-Washington; Sen. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia; Sen. Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden; Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle; Sen. Bobby Starr, D-Essex/Orleans; and Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham.
Also hopping on the Balint bandwagon are former legislative leaders such as former House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and former Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell. Nine more local officials also added their names to the list Tuesday.
— Sarah Mearhoff
Also on the endorsement front for Congressional seats, Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden, garnered the support of the Vermont AFL-CIO on Tuesday. The union represents 11,000 workers in the state.
In a press release Tuesday announcing the endorsement, Vermont AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen said Ram Hinsdale “is a true Labor champion.”
“In our Statehouse, she has fought tirelessly to advance the interests of working people, be it raising the minimum wage, supporting paid family medical leave for all, protecting public pensions, defending our core Union rights, or pushing for the passage of card checks,” he said. “And she has not been afraid to buck her own party’s leadership in her principled efforts to support Unions and working families.”
— Sarah Mearhoff
WHAT’S FOR LUNCH
It may still be cold outside, but Chef Bryant is serving up some summertime flavor Wednesday. On the menu is barbecued pork with a side of mac ‘n’ cheese.
Or maybe you’d like a custom meal from the sandwich bar. I happened to be standing behind Rep. Lucy Rogers, D-Waterville, today when she ordered a tomato wrap with hummus, extra cheese, avocado and an assortment of veggies. The “Lucy Rogers special” looked so good that the next two people in line, including yours truly (for research purposes), ordered the same. I opted to add olives.
This section reads more and more like native advertising by the day, but I promise no one is paying me extra to write this.
— Sarah Mearhoff
WHAT’S ON TAP
9 a.m. — The House Health Care committee will hear testimony for S.247, an act relating to prohibiting discrimination based on genetic information
9 a.m. — The House Government Operations and House Corrections and Institutions committees will conduct a joint hearing to discuss the Department of Corrections’ staff recruitment and retention
11 a.m. — House Education is slated to discuss and mark up S.100, an act relating to universal school breakfast and the creation of the Task Force on Universal School Lunch
1:30 p.m. — Senate Government Operations is set to discuss language access in the Legislature
1:45 p.m. — House Health Care will hear an update on wait times for psychiatric patients
WHAT WE’RE READING
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