Vermont Republican Governor Phil Scott met with reporters at the Statehouse in Montpelier today to discuss a number of issues facing the legislature and his administration. One of the primary topics is a piece of legislation under consideration that would require any federal immigration actions in Vermont to be approved by the governor.
Governor Scott began his press conference by noting that the legislature is one-third through its session. He outlined some of the initiatives and executive orders he signed shortly after his inauguration in January, including consolidation of agencies and presenting a balanced budget to the legislature. “And while we’ve seen a mix of support and resistance from lawmakers I invite my friends in the legislature to join us in focusing on the economy and affordability, to work with us on rethinking how state government operates and to realize the status quo is not working and we need a new approach, a fresh approach, to change our trajectory.”
The governor was quizzed on a number of topics. His Democratic predecessor had attempted to appoint a new Supreme Court justice upon the announcement that Justice John Dooley would retire at the end of March. The former governor lost challenges regarding his ability to appoint a justice prior to the actual retirement. Now, Governor Scott expects to choose a replacement by April 1st. “I look for someone who has a broad spectrum, broad experience, judicial temperament means a lot to me. Making sure they have integrity and character, commitment to the process, understanding what their role is in their judiciary process and competence in the subject matter and being a good judge.”
The conversation was dominated by immigration issues. On Tuesday new Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued a memorandum calling on local law enforcement to be deputized to assist in federal deportation efforts. On February 9th, Governor Scott announced tri-partisan introduction of Senate Bill 79. The measure would blunt any federal intervention in Vermont by restricting collection of “personally identifying information” and requiring that any federal actions to use local or state law enforcement first be approved by the governor. Scott says the intent is to thwart federal overreach. “This is about protecting our Constitution. It’s not just about this one issue. This is about what I see as federal overreach in terms of our Constitution and we can’t pick and choose which part of the Constitution we protect. We need to protect all of it. So the next time when somebody is maybe talking about taking away some Second Amendment rights I will be there to protect them as well. So I want to protect the Constitution and protect the state’s rights. I think that’s important to set that tone.”
Lieutenant Governor Progressive David Zuckerman, an organic farmer by trade, supports the governor’s immigration bill, noting the federal policy would have severe economic repercussions, particularly in the state’s agriculture sector. “The impacts could be quite tremendous. In Vermont the dairy industry and its ancillary benefits represent approximately $2 billion in economic activity. That is a large sector of Vermont’s economy. There could be significant economic impacts for the state as a whole and certainly for our dairy communities and those businesses.”
Governor Scott will attend the National Governors’ Association winter meeting in Washington this weekend.