Digger Tidbits: Brock mulls run for governor; House Dems caucus Saturday; BISHCA commissioner proposes to block sale of dialysis units at Fletcher Allen; Jobs study cited in Comprehensive Energy Plan pulled

Senator Randy Brock. VTD/Josh Larkin

Senator Randy Brock. VTD/Josh Larkin

The Vermont GOP is letting the suspense build.

Rumor has it that Randy Brock, who is the former state Auditor and state senator from Franklin County, will be running for governor. Or not.

As for what he plans to announce at a press conference next week? His lips are sealed. And his friends in the Republican Party are staying silent in solidarity.
Brock, in characteristic fashion, played coy. “It wouldn’t be a surprise and wouldn’t build up suspense if I told you I was run for attorney general,” he said in a phone interview. “I can’t confirm or deny what I’m running for.”

Attorney general, is a new one, for Brock actually. Auditor and governor are the titles that have previously been bandied about. Brock isn’t saying which one, but he’s announcing some kind of bid at 1 p.m. on Dec. 7 in the Cedar Creek Room at the Statehouse, and it’s expected that at juncture all the other candidates will fall into place.

A helpful hint? Joe Sinagra, the former executive director of the Vermont Homebuilders and Remodelers Association, has left his day job to concentrate on his business (he leases bouncy castles to local fairs) and perhaps a run for Brock’s state Senate seat.

As for the rest of the lineup, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie who narrowly lost the governor’s race to Peter Shumlin last year, is staying mum. Tom Salmon, who toyed with a bid against Sen. Bernie Sanders and Shumlin, backed out of both in October in order to concentrate on his role as state auditor.

Salmon doesn’t count Dubie out.

“Brian has told me that when the time is right for him he will certainly make an announcement and let Vermonters know what that is,” Salmon said. “He’s not out of the picture.”

Mark Snelling, who lost in a primary bid for lieutenant governor last year, is in a holding pattern. “I’m not in a position to say absolutely not, but it’s not something I’m actively working on at the moment,” Snelling said.

“If Randy were to run for governor I’d be delighted,” Snelling said. “I think he’s a very strong candidate and he’d make a great governor.”

As for Pat McDonald, the chair of the Vermont GOP, her brief moment in the sun as a potential contender is now cast in shadow. McDonald said she had been asked to think about it but she hasn’t made any moves.

“It would be inappropriate as chair to combine the job and deciding I would want to run or not,” McDonald said.

House Dems to elect new assistant majority leader

The House Democrats are caucusing all day at the Statehouse on Saturday and they’re expected to elect Rep. Kate Webb as the new deputy assistant majority leader. Webb would take the place of Sarah Copeland-Hansa who will become vice chair of the House Health Care Committee.

The Dems will lay out their agenda for the coming legislative session in a series of break out groups and informational sessions with committee chairs.

Kimbell looks to deny certificate of need to Fresenius

The Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration issued a proposed decision Thursday that would deny a certificate of need application by a for-profit company to purchase outpatient kidney dialysis clinics from Fletcher Allen Health Care.

The company that proposes purchasing the clinics and other interested parties can still file briefs and exceptions in response to the proposed decision. The department will hear oral argument Jan. 18.

The transaction would end Fletcher Allen’s involvement in outpatient dialysis and give Bio-Medical Applications of New Hampshire, a subsidiary of Fresenius Medical Care Holdings, ownership of six of seven of the state’s largest hospital’s facilities. Fletcher Allen would receive about $26 million in the transaction.

Fletcher Allen announced the proposed deal in 2010, citing financial losses as the reason for selling the facilities. Local hospitals have supported the idea. Fletcher Allen says it cannot continue operating the clinics at a loss, and providers are concerned the service could go away.

The Vermont Workers’ Center, which has been an outspoken opponent of selling the facilities to a for-profit company, issued a press release today calling the proposed decision a “victory.”

~Alan Panebaker

Jobs study cited in Comprehensive Energy Plan pulled

The Department of Public Service will have to run a correction or at least fix an error in the Comprehensive Energy Plan. The plan cites a study by the University of Tennessee and the Rand Corporation that found that if 25 percent of all American energy were produced from renewable sources by 2025, we would generate at least 5 million new green jobs.

According to Department of Public Service Deputy Commissioner Sarah Hofmann, the 5 million jobs number came from a study by the University of Tennessee. This study was based on figures from the Rand Corporation, a non-profit organization that does research and analysis. Hofmann said Rand contacted the department after the number appeared in an article in VTDigger.org. Rand revised its study, and the new figures did not mention jobs. Now Rand says it will not stand by the jobs number.

The department is looking into the issue and plans to pull the information from the plan. The error occurred in the draft plan. The final plan, due out in December, will have updated information. The department may replace the information with a citation to a different study or a revised study. The error is on page eight of volume two of the draft plan.

~Alan Panebaker

Media note

Shay Totten is leaving Seven Days. Totten, who took the place of Peter Freyne in April 2008 as the signature columnist for the weekly alternative newspaper, is taking a full-time media relations and marketing position with Chelsea Green Publishing.

Totten has written a number of important investigative pieces over the last few years, including an expose’ about UVM President Dan Fogel and his with Rachel Kahn-Fogel who had an inappropriate relationship with Michael Schultz, the school’s assistant vice president for development. The scandal led to Fogel’s departure.

Anne Galloway

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