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Gregg: Leahy Holds Court

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., yesterday said he wouldn’t wind up taking what historically has been the plum chairmanship in the Senate, heading the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Instead, Leahy will remain chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and keep his seat on Appropriations, which is likely to be chaired by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

“Congratulations to my friend @SenatorBarb who will be 1st woman to chair Senate Appropriations Committee. She’ll be great (already is),” the 72-year-old Leahy posted on Twitter.

Leahy, a former prosecutor who became the most senior member of the Senate this week with the death of Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye, also released a statement that read, “Chairing the Judiciary Committee and maintaining my seniority on the Appropriations Committee will allow me to protect both the Constitution and Vermont.”

By standing pat, Leahy will likely continue to play a high-profile role on confirmations of Supreme Court justices and a host of legal issues, including gun control legislation certain to be the subject of hearings early next year. This past session he also steered major patent reform legislation through Congress.

As The Washington Post noted yesterday in reporting Mikulski’s likely ascendancy, with earmarks no longer flowing out of Capitol Hill and budget cuts all but certain because of the growing national debt, the Appropriations chairmanship may also no longer be the sunniest perch on Capitol Hill, either.

The VA hospital in White River Junction probably will benefit from the appointment of Vermont’s other senator, Independent Bernie Sanders, to be chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

Sanders has long advocated for veterans on a range of issues, including the GI Bill, and will stay on four other committees in the Senate — Budget; Environment and Public Works; Energy and Natural Resources; and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., also got some good news in the House, though it remains controlled by Republicans. Welch will return to a seat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction on central issues such as health care and energy policy. Welch had been on the panel before but lost his seat there in 2010 following the GOP’s Tea Party wave. Welch, who lives in Norwich, has also been appointed to the insider’s Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and remains a chief deputy whip of the caucus.

Among New Hampshire lawmakers, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., also has gained a seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

County Politics

With Democrats regaining control of the New Hampshire House, there also are major leadership changes among the Sullivan County delegation. The chairman will now be state Rep. John Cloutier, D-Claremont, and state Rep. Suzanne Gottling, D-Sunapee, returns to the delegation as chairwoman of the Executive Finance Committee.

Among Republicans, Bruce Perlo, an avuncular small business owner from Sugar Hill, has retired after four years as chairman of the Grafton County GOP. He’s been replaced by former state Rep. Paul Simard, a moderate Republican from Bristol who lost his seat in November. Littleton Republican Tyler Drummond, a Vermont Law School graduate who ran for register of deeds, will be vice chairman.

Schools and Guns

Lebanon School Board member Al Patterson is suggesting adding another police school resource officer in Lebanon schools, saying they can help develop a rapport with students and potentially ward off problem incidents.

“They are worth their weight in gold,” said Patterson, who also serves as a police officer in Hanover. “They talk to the kids. they develop a rapport and friendship with students that teachers don’t get to know.”

Patterson said his proposal isn’t based solely on the tragic school shootings in Newtown, Conn., but rather his past experience seeing such programs work.

Though he favors ensuring that only police officers can carry guns on school property, Patterson said he believes more restrictions on gun ownership are “just going to empower the criminal.

“Guns are not the problem, it’s our society,” Patterson, who has also co-chaired Lebanon Republicans, said. “We have to get strict on offenders.”

Briefly Noted

∎ Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin made a point of inviting two reporters to go hunting with him during deer season last month. Shumlin didn’t take a deer during jaunts with WCAX-TV or with Seven Days reporter Paul Heintz. But Shumlin told Heintz, a 2006 Dartmouth College graduate, that he had mounted an eight-point buck he shot years ago in Putney. Shumlin is a native Vermonter and always a fun interview. But let’s face it: These stories also set the stage for Shumlin as he tries to raise his national profile. He’s not just the Democrat who passed gay marriage and the move toward single-payer health care in Vermont; he’s a hunter.

∎ Royalton’s Nils Daulaire got a promotion in Washington. He’s now the assistant secretary for global affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.