The Vermont Legislature has reached the midpoint of its current session. The governor’s weekly press conference at the Statehouse on Thursday included a look at what progress has occurred since the session began in January.
Governor Phil Scott began his weekly meeting with reporters by outlining a data breach affecting 10 states including Vermont. The breach of a third-party vendor servicing state governments affected the Vermont Department of Labor’s JobLink unemployment database. “The vendor now believes more than 180,000 accounts on JobLink were compromised. This is appalling and I know that this will be incredibly burdensome to the tens of thousands of Vermonters who are impacted. I assure you that we will continue to push this vendor to quickly confirm and notify all of those who had data that was compromised. And we will work with the nine other impacted states to hold this vendor accountable.”
The first-term Republican also announced that he has selected Karen Carroll to replace retiring Justice John Dooley on the Vermont Supreme Court. “When I took a look at Karen’s background serving on the court for 16 years and as a prosecutor before that. Her dad was a state police officer. There was just many factors that entered into my decision making and I thought that she was just so highly qualified that she stood out. But it wasn’t an easy decision because there were a number, a number of very qualified candidates.”
Scott discussed a number of bills including a reporter shield proposal, gun confiscation in domestic violence cases and immigration issues. The governor was criticized last week by House Democrats for not working with them to solve the budget gap. House Majority Leader Democrat Jill Krowinski says the situation has improved somewhat. “House leadership spoke out to say we need the governor to come to the table to join us in finishing this last bit of the budget gap. We have to work as a team. And since then things have been improving. We’re making progress and I think that if we can continue to work together and find solutions and ways to bridge the small gap left we can get there.”
Scott contends he regularly meets and works on the budget with House members but remains opposed to any plan that would raise taxes or fees. “The House is proceeding. They’re getting closer and closer to putting a budget out. We’ve offered some advice along the way. We’re still talking. I meet with the Speaker on a weekly basis. I meet with the legislators often. I would say it may be not what they’re accustomed to over the last 6 or 7 years but we’re always willing to work together.”
Earlier in the day a group of health care advocates organized by Rights and Democracy gathered in the Cedar Creek room. Brenda Patoine called on Gov. Scott to oppose the federal GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. “We’re asking you Governor Phil Scott to publically come out against the American Health Care Act, the Trumpcare, the Wealthcare, whatever you want to call it, the GOP plan that they are trying to ram through Congress, come out strongly against that.”
“I think I’ve been pretty clear in denouncing the plan.” Again, Governor Scott. “I think it would be as written would be devastating for Vermont. It would cost us hundreds of millions of dollars. Thousands of people would be without insurance. We’ve spoken directly with the White House and let them know what our concerns are. Working with other governors throughout the states that might find themselves in the same situation that we’re in.”
The Vermont Legislature is targeting adjournment in mid-May. Legislative leaders may schedule a special session later in the year to deal with any potential federal budget cuts.