Vermont State Police officers patrol the grounds of the Statehouse in Montpelier amid fear of violent protests on Sunday, January 17, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The governor’s coronavirus watch continues. Scott’s office reported Thursday that his status had not changed since testing negative for Covid-19 a day earlier. 

New results from other administration officials who may have been exposed at press briefings last week and early this week showed that Health Commissioner Mark Levine, Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith and Public Safety Commissioner Mike Schirling all tested negative, the governor’s office said. 

Scott continues to quarantine on the fifth floor of the Pavilion Building and will be tested again on Tuesday. 

—Kit Norton

Vermonters affected by major crimes testified Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee as lawmakers consider S.18, which would limit earned good time sentence reductions for criminal offenders.

The bill would limit good time for people convicted of murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault of a child and arson causing death.

Taylor Fontaine recounted how, as a 12-year-old, she was drugged and molested by an adult.

“An argument that I keep hearing over and over again for the reason that this bill shouldn’t be passed is that people change,” Fontaine said. “Yes, people can change. But what doesn’t change is the trauma endured by the victim.”

Ned Winterbottom and JoAnn Winterbottom, a couple whose daughter was murdered in 2005, also testified in support of the legislation.

“We will continue to work on S.18 next week,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who chairs the committee. “It’s a priority for us.”   —KN

Former attorney general Bill Sorrell testified Thursday in the House Government Operations Committee in his role as chair of the Vermont Criminal Justice Council.  

Sorrell told the panel he has high hopes for the implementation of legislative changes to police training protocols passed last year. He emphasized the importance of examining the professional qualifications of police academy applicants.

The former attorney general also supports giving the council the authority to prevent police officers with a record of misconduct from moving from one department to another.

“Getting away from a situation where maybe a department doesn’t have a bad officer but they have one who is not as good as they particularly want and so that officer quietly moves to another department,” Sorrell said.   —KN

The Republican minority leaders of the House and Senate have released a “New Year’s resolution” outlining priorities for 2021.

Sen. Randy Brock, R-Franklin, and Rep. Patricia McCoy, R-Poultney, say Republican lawmakers will attempt to stop Covid-19 funding from being used to prop up “existing state programs that have struggled because of prior financial mismanagement.”

The pair promised to block new taxes, fees and costly regulations. 

McCoy and Brock said the Republican House and Senate caucuses have proposed a voluntary paid family leave program and hope to end the tax on military pensions.  —KN

The Senate approved S.36, which authorizes the continued spending of the state’s remaining federal Coronavirus Relief Fund appropriation. The legislation includes money for the Vermont State Housing Authority to provide rental relief for the approximately 1,500 families eligible for the benefit in December. It also covers broadband projects and the Everyone Eats Program, and it extends some statutory deadlines.   —KN

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