Tagvermont

Stories about Vermont

Vermont ends statewide face-covering requirement

One state ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between June 12-17.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in the state, including capacity restrictions and mask requirements for unvaccinated individuals on June 14. Masks are still required in health care settings, in long-term care facilities, on public transportation, and at transportation hubs (like bus stations and airports). 

The California Department of Health also exempted fully vaccinated individuals from the statewide mask mandate starting June 15. Fully vaccinated residents still have to wear masks on public transit and in transportation hubs, in indoor childcare and K-12 school settings, in healthcare settings, and in congregate settings (including prisons and homeless shelters). The statewide mask requirement still exists for unvaccinated people in all indoor public settings and businesses. 

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. At the time of writing, 12 states had statewide mask orders, including 11 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and one of the 27 states with Republican governors. Of those 12 states, 11 exempted fully vaccinated people.

Of the 27 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 15 have Republican governors and 12 have Democratic governors. Twenty-four states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.



In four states, no state or federal officials have tested positive for COVID-19

Between the start of the coronavirus pandemic and March 18, 2021, no elected or appointed state or federal officials announced positive COVID-19 test results in four states—Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont. In the 46 other states, Ballotpedia has identified at least one COVID-19 positive state or federal official within our coverage scope. State and federal officials include members of Congress, state legislators, and state executive officeholders.

The first COVID-19 positive state officials identified by Ballotpedia were New York state Reps. Helene Weinstein (D) and Charles Barron (D), who announced positive test results on March 14, 2020. The first members of Congress to test positive were Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fl.), who made their announcements March 18.

Since then, Ballotpedia has identified 215 candidates and officials diagnosed with COVID-19 at the state level, and 69 candidates and officials with COVID-19 at the federal level.

The state with the highest number of publicly identified COVID-19 state and federal officials is Pennsylvania, where two U.S. House members, the governor, and 17 members of the state legislature have tested positive since March 2020.

To read more about federal, state, and local officials and candidates affected by COVID-19, click the link below.



Burlington, Vermont, voters approve a measure March 2 to use ranked-choice voting for city council elections

Voters in Burlington, Vermont, approved Question 4 on March 2, 64% to 36%. Question 4 will implement ranked-choice voting (RCV) for city council elections beginning in March 2022. As a charter amendment, the measure must now be approved by the Vermont General Assembly and signed by the governor to be enacted.

The vote was the first time the city voters considered RCV after repealing it in 2010. In 2005, Burlington voters amended the city’s charter to implement RCV—referred to as instant runoff voting—for mayoral elections. The 2005 measure was approved, 64% to 36%. Ranked-choice voting was used in the 2006 and 2009 mayoral elections.

On March 2, 2010, voters repealed ranked-choice voting by a vote of 52% to 48%. The measure to repeal ranked-choice voting was placed on the ballot through a ballot initiative petition drive after the city’s 2009 mayoral election.

The Burlington City Council attempted to place a ranked-choice voting measure on the November 2020 ballot, but it was vetoed by Mayor Miro Weinberger (D) after it passed the city council, 6 to 5. It would have implemented RCV for city council, mayoral, and school commissioner elections. The council amended the measure to only include city council elections and reconsidered it for the March 2021 ballot. The city council approved it on September 22, 2020. Mayor Weinberger signed the measure on October 3, 2020. 

The Yes on 4: Better Ballot Burlington campaign was co-chaired by former Governor Howard Dean (D) and City Councilmember Zoraya Hightower (Vermont Progressive Party). Hightower said, “I believe [RCV] helps elect leaders that are more representative of our city and cities across the country.”

Mayor Weinberger opposed the amended measure, saying, “[Prior use of ranked-choice voting] led to campaigns being very hesitant to define differences and distinctions between themselves on substance because of concerns of alienating second and third votes from other candidates. I was a campaign chair of a mayoral election during that period. I just don’t think it worked well.”

A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

As of 2021, one state (Maine) had implemented RCV at the state level, one state (Alaska) had adopted but not implemented RCV, eight states contained jurisdictions that had implemented RCV at some level, and another five states contained jurisdictions—including New York City—that had adopted but not yet implemented RCV in local elections.



Governors flex agency reorganization muscles

Governors in two states recently issued executive orders aimed at reorganizing agencies of the executive branch—with different results.

The Vermont House of Representatives on February 5 voted 108-40 to block Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s (R) executive order that would have established a new state law enforcement agency. Scott’s executive order, issued on January 14, would have merged all of the state’s law enforcement divisions under a newly created Agency of Public Safety.

Legislators argued that the proposed agency merger raised concerns about costs and agency independence that would be better addressed through the legislative process.

Vermont legislators previously blocked two of Scott’s executive orders aimed at reorganizing executive agencies. One of these orders—a proposal to merge the Vermont Lottery Commission and the Department of Liquor Control—was later approved via legislation.

In a statement following the House vote, Scott expressed appreciation for lawmakers’ interest in pursuing the reorganization plan through legislation.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) on January 19 issued a similar executive order that would restructure executive branch agencies by merging the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to form a new Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR). Noem argues that the merger will strengthen agriculture operations in the state while promoting conservation efforts.

The South Dakota State Legislature has the authority to oppose the merger, but no lawmakers had raised objections as of February 5.

Additional Reading:



Burlington, Vermont voters will decide on March 2 whether to adopt ranked-choice voting for city council elections

On March 2, Burlington, Vermont voters will decide Question 4, a measure to implement ranked-choice voting for city council elections beginning in March 2022.

The Burlington City Council attempted to place a ranked-choice voting measure on the November 2020 ballot, but it was vetoed by Mayor Miro Weinberger (D) after receiving a 6-5 vote from the city council. It would have implemented RCV for city council, mayoral, and school commissioner elections. The council amended the measure to only include city council elections and reconsidered it for the March 2021 ballot. It was approved on September 22, 2020. Mayor Weinberger signed the measure on October 3, 2020. 

The vote will be the first time the city voters decide on RCV after repealing it in 2010. In 2005, Burlington voters amended the city’s charter to implement RCV—referred to as instant runoff—for mayoral elections. The 2005 measure was approved by 64% to 36%. It was used in the 2006 and 2009 mayoral elections.

On March 2, 2010, voters repealed ranked-choice by a vote of 52% to 48%. The measure to repeal ranked-choice voting was placed on the ballot through a ballot initiative petition drive after the 2009 mayoral election.

The Yes on 4: Better Ballot Burlington campaign is co-chaired by Former Governor Howard Dean (D) and City Councilmember Zoraya Hightower (Vermont Progressive Party). Hightower said, “I believe [RCV] helps elect leaders that are more representative of our city and cities across the country.” Mayor Weinberger opposes the amended measure saying, “[Prior use of ranked-choice voting] led to campaigns being very hesitant to define differences and distinctions between themselves on substance because of concerns of alienating second and third votes from other candidates. I was a campaign chair of a mayoral election during that period. I just don’t think it worked well.”

A ranked-choice voting system (RCV) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

As of 2021, one state (Maine) had implemented RCV at the state level, one state (Alaska) had adopted but not implemented RCV, eight states contained jurisdictions that had implemented RCV at some level, and another five states contained jurisdictions—including New York City—that had adopted but not yet implemented RCV in local elections.

All active registered Burlington voters will be receiving an absentee ballot the week of February 8. Voters may return their absentee ballot by mail, drop box, or at an election polling place on March 2. Polling places will be open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm on election day. Voters may register to vote in-person on election day.

Additional Reading:



Legislative control of redistricting changed in New Hampshire, Vermont following Nov. 3 elections

Following the 2020 elections, two states saw changes to the partisan makeup of their state legislatures that could affect redistricting, which is set to begin in 2021 following the publication of the U.S. Census.

Republicans in New Hampshire gained control of the Congressional and state legislative redistricting process after the 2020 elections. Republicans won new majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, forming a Republican state government trifecta with Gov. Chris Sununu (R). New Hampshire’s legislature will draw Congressional and state legislative district lines in 2021, and they are subject to a possible gubernatorial veto.

Vermont’s redistricting process will fall under divided party control in 2021.

Heading into the election, Democrats and third-party representatives who caucus with Democrats held supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature. This coalition lost its supermajority status in the state House. The Democratic-majority legislature will create redistricting plans in 2021, but will not have the two-thirds supermajority votes in each chamber necessary to override a possible veto from Republican Governor Phil Scott.

Thirty-four states task their legislatures with Congressional redistricting (not including states with a single at-large U.S. House district), and 35 with state legislative redistricting.

Republican legislatures will control 20 Congressional redistricting processes and 20 state legislative redistricting processes. Democratic legislatures will control 10 Congressional redistricting processes and 11 state legislative redistricting processes.

Four Congressional redistricting and state legislative redistricting processes, respectively, are under divided party control. These include Minnesota, where Republicans maintained control of the state Senate and Democrats maintained control of the state House. Other states—like Louisiana, Wisconsin, Vermont (state legislative only), and Pennsylvania (Congressional only)—have single-party majorities in the legislature and a governor of another party. Vermont has a Democratic legislature and a Republican governor, while the other three states have a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor.

Additional reading:



Phil Scott elected to third term as governor of Vermont

Incumbent Phil Scott (R) defeated Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (D/Vermont Progressive Party) and six independent and third-party candidates to win a third two-year term as governor of Vermont. Vermont is one of three states (along with North Carolina and Louisiana) with a governor and lieutenant governor from different parties. It is also one of four states that voted for Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016 and has a Republican governor.

Scott is one of two Republicans who won an election for governor in 2016 as Hillary Clinton carried their state in the presidential election. The other such governor, Chris Sununu (R) of neighboring New Hampshire, also won a third term tonight.

Scott’s win retains the Republican Party’s hold on the governorship and prevents Democrats from gaining a trifecta in Vermont this year. Heading into the election, Vermont was one of 14 states with a divided government, as Democrats controlled both chambers of the state legislature and Republicans the governorship. As of Scott’s win, control of the state legislature remained too close to call; all 30 state Senate seats and all 150 state House seats are up for election.



Vermont enacts legislation granting public-sector unions greater access to new employees

Vermont enacts legislation granting public-sector unions greater access to new employees           

On Oct. 12, Gov. Phil Scott (R) into law S254, omnibus legislation that will grant public-sector unions greater access to new employees and facilitate automatic dues deductions.

What does the legislation do?  

The legislation will make the following changes to Vermont’s public-sector labor relations laws effective Jan. 1, 2021: 

  • Requires employers to provide unions with opportunities to meet newly hired employees, either during an employee’s orientation or within 30 days of being hired. 
  • Requires an employer to furnish a union with a list of all the employees within the union’s bargaining unit. This list, which the employer must provide annually, must contain every employee’s name, work location, job classification, and contact information (including home address, personal email address, and home and cell phone numbers).  
  • Grants employees the right to automatic union dues deductions. An employer must begin dues deductions within 30 days of receiving an employee’s written consent. 
  • Modifies the union certification process.

Other enacted public-sector labor bills

State legislatures in three other states have enacted public-sector labor legislation this year: 

  • California AB2850: Specifies that the Public Employment Relations Board has jurisdiction to enforce statutory provisions governing employer-employee relations within the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District.
  • Virginia HB582: Repeals the prohibition against public-sector employee collective bargaining.
  • Virginia SB939: Permits local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
  • Washington HB2017: Establishes collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.

Legislative history

Sen. Michael Sirotkin (D) introduced S254 on Jan. 9. On Sept. 4, the Senate approved the legislation and sent it to the House, which passed it with an amendment on Sept. 23. The Senate agreed to the House amendment on Sept. 24 and sent the bill to the governor on Oct. 6. Scott signed it into law on Oct. 12.  

Political context

Vermont has a divided government. A Republican holds the governorship, but Democrats have majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. 

What are the reactions?

Support

  • Heather Riemer, the director of the Vermont chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said, “It’s basically making sure employers don’t decide they want to make it harder for people to be union members by denying them the right to have their union dues taken out of their paycheck.” 

Opposition

  • Max Nelsen, the labor policy director at the Freedom Foundation, said, “If you happen to make it through that 60-minute orientation and you don’t sign up for union membership, It’s entirely possible that you’ll start receiving phone calls or emails or maybe a visit to your home on a Saturday morning from union organizers trying to get you signed up.” 

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s) 

Recent legislative actions

No legislative actions have been taken on relevant bills since our last issue.



Molly Gray wins Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial primary in Vermont

Molly Gray defeated Timothy Ashe, Debbie Ingram, and Brenda Siegel in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor of Vermont. With 68% of precincts reporting, Gray had received 45% of the vote. Ashe was second with 32%. Siegel and Ingram each received less than 10%.

Incumbent Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman (D/P) is running for governor, leaving the position open. Gray is an assistant attorney general. Ashe is a state senator and serves as the chamber’s president pro tempore.

The 2016 election was the first time since 2000 that Vermonters had elected a non-Republican lieutenant governor. Vermont Public Radio‘s Peter Hirschfeld, commenting about the office, wrote, “Aside from presiding over the state senate … [the] job doesn’t carry much in the way of constitutional powers. But the statewide post has been an important stepping stone for many ambitious politicians.” Vermont has had six governors since 1980, three of whom had previously served as lieutenant governor.



Zuckerman wins Democratic gubernatorial primary in Vermont

David Zuckerman won Vermont’s Democratic gubernatorial primary on August 11, 2020. With 55% of precincts reporting, he had received 44% of the vote. Rebecca Holcombe was second with 33%. Patrick Winburn and Ralph Corbo received less than 10% each.

Zuckerman is Vermont’s lieutenant governor. He previously served in the state Senate as a Progressive/Democrat from 2013 to 2017 and in the state House as a Progressive Party member from 1997 to 2011. Holcombe was Vermont’s education secretary from 2014 to 2018.

Vermont has a Republican governor and Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. It is one of 14 states with a divided government. Vermont is also one of four states that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and has a Republican governor in 2020. Three election forecasters rate the general election either Likely Republican or Solid Republican.

Incumbent Gov. Phil Scott (R) is seeking re-election and won the Republican primary.