Final Reading: Please hold for the fashion police

Final Reading: Please hold for the fashion police
Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, speaks on the floor of the House at the Statehouse on May 14, 2019. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

What is business professional attire? Depends on who you ask. Or what you Google. 

The House voted Tuesday to amend its dress code in order to adopt gender-neutral language and a business professional standard. 

The change was initially meant to address a small tradition, said Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, who presented it.  

In pre-Covid years, once it got warm out, someone would offer a motion to allow men to remove their jackets on the House floor. By tradition, Donahue said, the motion had to be put forward by a woman. 

Donahue researched making a change so that anyone could propose going jacketless. But she learned that “if we repeat traditions, consistently over time they become customs, and customs become rules,” she said. 

She figured if they were going to go ahead and change the rule, they should adopt gender-neutral language. So, on Tuesday, the House voted to adopt a “business professional standard.” 

But Donahue made clear she does not want to be the fashion police. 

“I beg that members do not interrogate me about specific wardrobe items,” Donahue said on the House floor. She said the rule change was not intended to change what people were already wearing. 

Asked later about the dress code, Donahue compared professional attire to how Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously defined obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”

But Brian Cina, P/D-Burlington, had questions. Business professional, by most online definitions, requires suit jackets for women. 

If the resolution preserves the status quo, “the intention of it is to create gender equality, but there’s only requirements for men,” Cina said. 

Cina also noted that “business professional,” by many definitions, requires matching suits and subdued ties, which is generally stricter than what many members wear to the Statehouse, they said.

“I appreciate the gender-neutral piece, but I don’t think people understand we just adopted a stricter dress code,” Cina said. 

We also hear that some women in the House plan to wear ties to work tomorrow, to mix it up. Rep. Tiff Bluemle, D-Burlington, said she’ll bring extras. 

— Riley Robinson


Gov. Phil Scott vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have closed the “Charleston Loophole” and banned guns from hospitals. 

In a letter to the Legislature, however, Scott outlined what he called a “path forward” to a version of the bill, S.30, that he said he would sign. 

The vetoed legislation would have required a person to pass a background check before purchasing a firearm, whereas current law allows a transfer after three days regardless of the background check status. Scott said he would be comfortable with a compromise of seven days. 

Under federal law, if a background check is not completed within 30 days, the process must start over.

Lt. Gov. Molly Gray quickly published a statement that she would support the Legislature voting to override Scott’s veto. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, D-Windham, also issued a statement that she had “serious concerns about the Governor’s proposal on the Charleston Loophole.”

The statement also said Balint was discussing next steps with the Senate and the House.

— Ethan Weinstein and Riley Robinson

Gov. Phil Scott used his weekly press briefing to put lawmakers on blast for spending American Rescue Plan Act funds in ways he doesn’t like.

The two chambers are hashing out their differences over a mid-year spending bill that is likely to top $360 million. Different versions of the budget adjustment bill passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming Democratic and Republican support. So is the governor threatening a veto?

“Our goal is for them to address some of our concerns now, so that a veto wouldn’t need to be considered,” said Jason Maulucci, Scott’s press secretary.

— Lola Duffort

The Senate Judiciary Committee is backing off of its bill to prohibit law enforcement officers from executing no-knock warrants in most cases.

During a Tuesday hearing, the committee decided that S.228 was unnecessary in Vermont, where the use of no-knock warrants is rare thanks to state court precedent and narrow parameters in which such warrants are granted.

“As a practical matter, we don’t have no-knock warrants now, except for literally less than a handful a year across the entire state,” Defender General Matthew Valerio told lawmakers Tuesday.

Lawmakers agreed that S.228 mirrored state court precedent on the issue anyway. And Sen. Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden, wondered aloud if the bill could “unintentionally muck up some of the existing case law.”

“If there was an absence of any kind of regulation whatsoever, this might be something to pursue,” Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, said. “But this is so well litigated, so well understood and so very rarely used. I just conclude the bill is not necessary.”

— Sarah Mearhoff

Vermont PBS has released round two of its listener survey, and the 600 participants’ responses are enlightening. 

Conducted in January with a sampling error of 4%, here are some standout stats:

If you were to advise an 18-year-old considering where to build a successful life and career, would you recommend that they stay in Vermont or leave Vermont?

36% Stay in Vermont

42% Leave Vermont

20% Not sure/it depends

1% Refused

Reports have shown that many people have moved to Vermont from other states during the pandemic. Do you see this as good for Vermont, bad for Vermont, or neither?

28% Good for Vermont

33% Bad for Vermont

34% Neither good nor bad

5% Not sure/no opinion

To what extent do you think racism is a problem in Vermont today? Would you say it is a big problem, somewhat of a problem, a small problem, or no problem at all?

20% Big problem

33% Somewhat problem

26% Small problem

17% No problem

2% Not sure/no opinion

Would you support an amendment to the Vermont Constitution that guarantees the right to an abortion?

64% Yes

27% No

8% Not sure/no opinion

1% Refused

— Sarah Mearhoff


The House passed a handful of bills this morning, each by voice vote:

  • H.491, to create the city of Essex Junction
  • H.515, which amends some banking, securities and insurance regulation
  • H.708, a Burlington charter change which would authorize the city council to bar evictions without “just cause”
  • H.709, which makes miscellaneous changes to agricultural programs

The body also gave preliminary approval to another Burlington charter change, H.448. The amendment would authorize Burlington’s City Council to regulate heating systems and institute carbon pricing, if a majority of Burlington voters approve. The vote was 96-47, and the bill will now proceed to third reading. 

— Riley Robinson


Christina Nolan, the former U.S. attorney for Vermont, is running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican.

VTDigger first reported Nolan’s interest in the race last month. She formally announced her candidacy Tuesday in an exclusive interview with Fox News and released a 3-minute campaign video.

Nolan was named Vermont’s top federal prosecutor in 2017 by President Donald Trump with bipartisan recommendations from Gov. Phil Scott and Leahy. She was the first woman to hold the post in Vermont.

The state has never sent a woman to Congress, but that is likely to change this November. Nolan is the first prominent woman this cycle to throw her hat in the ring for Senate — from either party — and three high-profile Democratic women are vying to replace Welch in the U.S. House.

Read more here.

— Lola Duffort

Former Democratic Lt. Gov. Doug Racine, who has been thinking about asking voters for his old job back, now says he’s weighing running for governor instead.

“People are saying, ‘Well, you know, I’ve already committed’ or ‘You know, it’s a crowded field. There are a lot of good people. So why don’t you think about the governor’s race?’ So I’m still making the calls and asking people what they think — one versus the other,” Racine told VTDigger on Monday.

As Racine has made calls about a potential run for LG, he said he’s found many Democrats, particularly in the Legislature, have already lined up behind former Rep. Kitty Toll of Danville, who chaired House Appropriations. (Her sister, Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia, still helms Senate Appropriations.) Many Progressives and those on the left wing of the Democratic Party, meanwhile, Racine said, have already pledged their support to former Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman. 

Racine has run for governor twice before. Twenty years ago, he was the Democratic nominee for governor, but lost out to Republican Jim Douglas. He ran again in 2010, and came within less than 200 votes of besting Peter Shumlin in a five-way Democratic primary.

“It’ll be baseball season soon and in baseball you get three swings. So I’ve had two,” he said. “The question is whether it’s a good time to take another.”

— Lola Duffort

Business owner and former state Senate candidate Ericka Redic has announced her run for  U.S. House as a Republican. 

In her campaign announcement released Monday, Redic said she is running “to restore integrity, fiscal restraint, and stability to our Federal Government.”

Redic is the first Republican candidate to enter the fray, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission, and she joins a growing list of candidates vying for the seat (in order of announcement: Lt. Gov. Molly Gray; Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, D-Windham; and Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden).

Redic runs a political YouTube channel titled Generally Irritable, which her campaign website describes as, “we’re like public radio but for CONSERVATIVES!”

Redic owns and operates I Love your Money, a bookkeeping and financial services business.  She has also worked with Women Helping Battered Women, Women’s Rape Crisis Center and Vermont Freedom to Marry, and served on the board of the Vermont Victim/Survivor of Crime Council, according to reporting by the Milton Independent.

— Riley Robinson


Vermont’s congressional delegation on Tuesday backed President Joe Biden’s announcement of strong new economic sanctions against Russia, enacted in response to what the president called “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.” 

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., “believes that what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is doing creates enormous problems for Europe and stokes his billionaire ego,” his spokesperson, David Carle, wrote in an emailed statement.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., similarly offered statements condemning Putin’s tactics and supporting Biden’s measures, which include fully blocking two Russian financial institutions, sanctions on Russian debt and targeted sanctions on Russian elites and their families. 

Biden’s move comes as eyewitnesses have reportedly seen tanks barreling into Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a speech Monday recognized two pro-Russia separatist regions in Ukraine, stoking fears of further aggression.

Read more here.

— Sarah Mearhoff


The Senate Judiciary Committee’s Tuesday morning hearing was interrupted by a knock at the door of Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington. His dog Marley barked at the door, and Sen. Phil Baruth, D/P-Chittenden, quipped, “You know who runs that household.”

When Sears returned to his desk, he announced that his colleagues sent him a cherry pie for George Washington’s 290th birthday. Sears’ mother used to bake a cherry pie every year in honor of the occasion. 

“Better than cutting down trees today,” said Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham.

— Sarah Mearhoff


Tomorrow’s lunch offerings will include “winter salmon” with cheddar risotto, said Chef Bryant Palmer. The salmon will have a sweet potato crust, which he described to this non-chef reporter as sort of like shreds of a sweet potato latke, seared on top. 

“That’s the gist of it,” Palmer said. “I’m not giving you all my secrets.”

Fine, fine. But in a pan? Or in the oven?

“It could be done in a pan … it could be done in the oven,” he said. “Or it could be both at the same time — a pan in the oven.” 

A man of mystery. 

— Riley Robinson



9 a.m.House Judiciary to take testimony and possibly vote on H.534, which would change the process to seal criminal records.

9 a.m. House & Senate Transportation hears from the Joint Fiscal Office on a gap in the transportation fund.

1:15 p.m. House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife has scheduled a possible vote on H.492, an act relating to the structure of the Natural Resources Board.


Tennessee Waltz: Does the Bennington County sheriff still live in Vermont? (VTDigger)

Chatter boxes: Legislators have used Zoom’s private chat function in public meetings — without preserving records (VTDigger)

Vermonters with long Covid still face barriers to care (VTDigger)