Corey Parent has some new digs in Montpelier. The former state senator — once considered a rising Republican star, and among the youngest lawmakers under the golden dome — opted not to seek reelection this past fall, and is now calling Leonine Public Affairs his home.
Wait, lobbying Leonine? So soon after serving? Yes, but Parent swears up and down that his new gig does not involve the L-word.
After leaving his post as director of operations for St. Albans town this spring, Parent told VTDigger he started Forty-Four Seven Strategies, a consulting firm that worked with local municipalities. Leonine — lions that they are — ate up the firm in a merger and brought Parent along for the ride. In a celebratory January news release, Leonine said they were “expanding their scope of services to include municipal and business consulting.” His official title is director of business and municipal affairs.
“They're a multifaceted firm. Obviously, you know one end of it, but you know, they have strategic communications, they've got a national component to their firm, and then obviously the local lobbying,” Parent said. “But this was an area they didn't have a ton in so I'm under their umbrella.”
Under Vermont law, state lawmakers are barred from becoming registered lobbyists with the state for at least one year after leaving office. Asked if his new gig could be considered, ahem, lobbying, Parent quickly answered no.
“Not at all. I don't interact with state government,” Parent said. “We've built a very strong line there, made the commitment that I will not be stepping in the Statehouse at any point during 2023. And quite honestly, if this business line continues to grow, I won't be in the Statehouse in 2024 or 2025.”
“The plan is not to be a contract lobbyist in the state of Vermont at all. It's to build out this other line of business,” he said.
So, what does he do? Some examples: Writing the town plan for Swanton, conducting a search for town manager in St. Albans and developing stormwater utility and economic development projects in Milton. “Really kind of on-the-ground work for towns, just helping them with administrative projects,” Parent said.
A deeply annoying reporter, I continued to prod. Does his work bring him into the Statehouse at all whatsoever? “Nope.” How about the Pavilion? Any contact with the administration? “No, the only communication I've had was just that I'd be taking the job and that we probably shouldn't communicate for the next year.” (Brutal.) How about through the grapevine? “No business communications with anyone in state government. I made it clear to my municipal clients that if they have to reach any kind of administrative whatever, they ought to do that themselves just to be very overly cautious.”
— Sarah Mearhoff
IN THE KNOW
A former prosecutor appointed to the Vermont Superior Court is facing unusual opposition as the state Senate considers confirming her to the bench.
Gov. Phil Scott named then-Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett to the court last August, and lawmakers launched confirmation proceedings when they returned to Montpelier last month. But the Senate Judiciary Committee has since received at least four letters from attorneys taking issue with Barrett’s appointment. And, at a confirmation hearing Friday morning, two of them spoke out against the nominee, criticizing her character, her choices as a prosecutor and even the record of her husband, a former state trooper.
The pushback has slowed a confirmation process that is typically pro forma.
“To be totally honest, in my 30-plus years here, we have always confirmed the governor’s nominees for judges and magistrates,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, who chairs the committee, at Friday’s meeting.
— Riley Robinson
State senators working on the session’s largest climate bill have been fending off concerns following testimony from the head of the state’s Agency of Natural Resources, who gave a self-described “back-of-the-envelope” analysis about the bill’s potentially high upfront cost for Vermonters.
Lawmakers on the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee, which is working on the bill, have said they don’t consider Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore’s analysis to be a complete picture, or even a helpful model of the projected costs.
“A back-of-the-napkin analysis that's incomplete and inaccurate by the author's own definition shouldn't be given the same weight as the professional studies — of which there are eleven, and a twelfth is currently being done right now,” said Sen. Chris Bray, D-Addison, who chairs the committee. “We're trying to do our due diligence, and we're using the best professional analysis we can in order to do that work.”
— Emma Cotton
Vermont lawmakers are considering expanding a proposed state constitutional amendment to set qualifications not just for sheriffs but also for the other elected county offices of state’s attorney, probate judge and assistant judge.
During a meeting Thursday of the Senate Government Operations Committee, Sen. Robert Norris, R-Franklin, said that he was “not keen” on the proposed amendment, Proposal 1, because the Vermont Constitution is not just a piece of paper to be rewritten at will.
But Norris — himself a former Franklin County sheriff — agrees that the law enforcement position requires additional oversight.
— Tiffany Tan
ON THE HILL
Vermont’s senior U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is no stranger to the limelight and, by way of two presidential runs and 32 years in Congress, he has elevated his progressive politics — which date back to his early years as mayor of Burlington — to the forefront of American political discourse.
But this year, Sanders will occupy a new, immensely influential role — not on the election debate stage, but holding the gavel. With the swearing-in of a new Congress in January and the organization of Senate committees made final on Thursday, Sanders has now become chair of the body’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, or the HELP Committee, for short.
The panel is arguably among the most powerful committees in the upper chamber, and at its helm, Sanders holds his best chance yet of making headway on his longtime goals of lowering health care costs, chipping away at student loan debt, beefing up labor union protections and more.
— Sarah Mearhoff
IF YOU’VE MADE IT THIS FAR
The most important scoop of the week: I hear Chief Romei’s daughters’ 15 cases of Girl Scout cookies will be up for grabs come Tuesday. “A crumb of intel,” my source told me.
Last week, when I so bravely revealed a personal detail (my allegiance to Thin Mints) in this widely read and beloved newsletter, I was shocked and alarmed by the cookie slander that hit my inbox. One opinion-haver went so far as to call me “basic” and said my dessert preferences were akin to “toothpaste.” You know who you are.
— Sarah Mearhoff
WHAT WE’RE READING
An ‘unknowing pawn?’: From prison, Bill Stenger claims state ‘covered up’ EB-5 fraud (VTDigger)
After Orange County Sheriff’s Department cancels contract, Randolph will reestablish its police force (VTDigger)
Vermont is shutting down some prison work programs (VTDigger)
Contractor sues Burlington School District over high school demolition bid (VTDigger)
Many ski resorts to suspend lift operations during cold snap (WCAX)
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