Tag Archives: Vermont Veterans’ Home

House conferees close the gambling back door

Sen. Kevin Mullin’s attempts to sneak pro-gambling language into a pair of unrelated bills has failed, thanks to the efforts of House conferees.

Mullin craps out.

Mullin craps out.

I first wrote about this last week; the day before yesterday, another Vermont media source finally decided to pursue the story. VPR’s Bob Kinzel had more detail than I did — although he focused on one of Mullin’s maneuvers and missed the other. Still, if you want more information, do read his piece.

To recap, Mullin slipped language into a consumer protection bill that laid out consumer protections for daily fantasy sports — an activity deemed by Eternal General Bill Sorrell to be illegal. Which seems contradictory: why regulate an illegal industry? (That’s the one Kinzel missed.) And into the big budget bill, he inserted language that would have allowed the Lottery Commission more leeway in placing electronic gaming machines in bars and restaurants — possibly including Keno and video poker.

The part I failed to catch was that the current gaming-machine pilot program is set to expire this summer. Mullin’s amendment would have removed the sunset and broadened the definition of acceptable machines. His amendment had the support of Lottery Director Greg Smith, who is under pressure to grow revenues.

Which, given the current EB-5 scandal, is kind of ironic. A central problem with EB-5 was that a single agency was tasked with regulating AND promoting the same activity. And here’s the Lottery Commission, regulating AND promoting the same activity. Conflict of interest, anyone?

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Don’t play poker with Shap Smith

ItsNotGamblingAs one lawmaker pointed out yesterday, the Speaker of the House has never lost a vote he wanted to win.

Which is either testimony to Shap Smith’s backstage adroitness or his overabundant caution, depends on who you ask. In reality, it’s both.

His gifts were on full display yesterday, although not on the floor of the House. There, the apparent drama was high as votes approached on the big tax and budget bills of 2015. A coalition of liberal, Progressive and independent lawmakers were prepared to vote no — and that, combined with the Republican minority, would be enough to sink the measures and send the House back to the drawing board. Or the back rooms, anyway.

Indeed, on Thursday morning the tax bill was headed for defeat and the budget vote was going to be close.  But the Democratic leadership made a deal with Minority Leader Don Turner to ensure enough Republican votes to pass both bills. The tax bill passed 76-67, and later the budget bill passed by a roughly two-to-one margin.

What did Turner receive for, as VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld put it, ensuring “Passage of a Budget [the Republicans] Don’t Support”?

Well, in a lighthearted Tweet yesterday, I estimated his take as three paper clips, a rubber band, and some pocket lint. The reality wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t much better.

Reportedly, Turner got a couple concessions that will actually increase spending: three more months of funding for the two Emergency 911 call centers slated for closure, plus more money for the Vermont Veterans’ Home. The two call centers are in heavily Republican areas and veterans are part of the GOP base. And constituency trumps consistency.

Beyond that, Turner folded to a big fat bluff by pokermeister Smith.

“Because their alternative was to increase spending to attract the more liberal side of the House,” Turner says.

Yeah, maybe. The hallway chatter told another story: Smith had no interest in dealing with the liberals, but it was a very convenient lever to get the Republican votes he wanted.

At day’s end, Smith raked in the winner’s pot. He got very tough tax and budget bills through the House with amazingly little disputation; he kept his undefeated streak alive; and he cemented his reputation as a moderate Democrat who can be dealt with and trusted to deliver.

Super Dave stubs his toe

Pity poor VTGOP chair David Sunderland. He’s constantly on the lookout for ways to score a cheap political point at the expense of the Democrats. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do it. I guess.

So I guess it’s only to be expected that, once in a while, Sunderland will get it completely wrong. Exhibit A:

The link is to a brief story reporting Shumlin’s opposition to the idea of closing the Vermont Veterans’ Home.

That proposal was on a lengthy list of cuts totaling $29 million, produced last week by the Shumlin administration and the legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office. It was meant as an all-inclusive laundry list, with no endorsements implied or expressed. It includes obvious nonstarters like cutting the House from 150 members to 120, eliminating the Vermont Commission on Women*, and reductions to health care premium subsidies.

*I certainly hope that’s a nonstarter. And I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that it was a man who suggested it.

The list was presented as a starting point for discussion — and as evidence of how hard it is to cut the budget.

I see three possible explanations for Sunderland’s wrongheaded Tweet:

— He thought he saw an opening and pounced without thinking it through.

— He actually doesn’t know what the list is, even though it was one of the top political stories of the past week.

— He knows damn well that Shumlin hasn’t endorsed the list, but isn’t about to let the facts get in his way.

I’m willing to assume the first. The second would betray a surprising level of ignorance; the third is out of bounds, even by the loose relationship to the truth maintained by your average major party chair.

Only in #VT: Military Vets for Namaste

You probably wouldn’t ever see this story in, say, Texas or Mississippi.

A large donation from Manchester Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6471 has enabled the Vermont Veterans’ Home to expand its Namaste program.

This included buying furnishings for the Namaste room, which has a scenic view of the landscape and pond in back of the home.

The Namaste program is aimed at “giving non-pharmacological intervention to anxiety, dementia behaviors,” according to Vets’ Home CEO Melissa Jackson. She reports “incredible success” with the program.

Still, for most VFW chapters, I suspect the name itself would be a deal-breaker. Somebody’d think it was Muslim; others would blanch at the idea of inculcating ideas from Eastern religion into our troubled vets. Hey, whaddya doin’ in that Nam-assty room — training American double agents?

Instead, when presented with the idea, the Manchester Post responded with a $40,000 donation.

Hats off to VFW Post 6471 for their generosity. Maybe in the future I’ll be a little less quick to judge, or dismiss, “old-fashioned” community groups like theirs.