Thursday, February 28, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 28, 2013

Animal welfare advocates presented Governor Shumlin a petition to strengthen animal abuse laws in the state.  A press release says that the advocates urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would ban extreme confinement of breeding pigs in gestation crates, strengthen standards for commercial dog breeders, require complex surgical procedures on animals to be performed by veterinarians and to expedite hearings on animal cruelty cases to allow for the adoption of animals into new homes more quickly.  The petition delivered to Shumlin had more than 1,300 signatures on it.

The fund which steps in to help Vermont families when their heating tanks are about to run dry is nearly running on empty itself.  Governor Peter Shumlin announced Wednesday the state's emergency fuel assistance program for low-income Vermonters will run out of money by the end of the week.  He's now asking lawmakers to come up with additional funding, despite the threat of across-the-board federal spending cuts likely to be activated as of Friday.  So far this year, the program has helped more than 45-hundred families.

Addison County Transit Resources have announced some changes to the Snow Bowl Shuttle Bus Schedule during the NCAA races next week.  On Wednesday, March 6, ACTR will add back in a modified winter weekday schedule from Adirondack Circle on Middlebury College’s campus with the first run departing at 10:15 am.  There will be no early am or pm commuter runs on Wednesday.  On Thursday, March 7, and Friday, March 8, regular winter weekday commuter runs will be in operation in the morning and evening.  And on Monday, March 11, the SBSB’s four-day spring/summer/fall weekday schedule takes full effect with service Thursday through Sunday until the end of March.

Vermont lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution honoring the late Representative Greg Clark.  That tribute included the presentation of a check totaling over $7,000 toward a newly established Greg Clark Scholarship Fund that will benefit graduates of Mount Abe, where Clark taught social studies for 18 years. 

Gov. Peter Shumlin says Vermont's emergency fuel assistance has run out of funds, and that he's looking for another $900,000 to get people in need through the next three weeks.  Vermont budgeted $2.8 million this year for emergency fuel assistance.  Shumlin says he wants to look at a way to make the program more efficient, including examining eligibility requirements and stepping up weatherization of low-income Vermonters' homes.

The Vermont National Guard will welcome their new adjutant general tomorrow afternoon.  A press release says the Guard will celebrate a long military transition as Brigadier General Steven Cray assumes the position as the 23rd Adjutant General of the state of Vermont.  Cray will replace Major General Thomas Drew.  The ceremony will take place at the Green Mountain Armory in Colchester.

A new poll shows about half of Vermonters support moving to a single-payer health care system.  The survey by the Castleton Polling Institute shows 52 percent favor a public-funded single-payer system; 30 percent are opposed and 17 percent are undecided.  The support is slightly higher than a similar poll conducted last May.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 27, 2013

A mix of snow, sleet, and rain will make for a messy commute this afternoon, especially the further south you go.  The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for much of the listening region.  Snow totals by the time this is all done will range from 1-3 inches in the valleys to as much as 10 inches in the higher elevations.  You can expect this wintry mix to continue through tonight, before getting much lighter after midnight.

The House Health Care Committee took a revote on the beverage tax that they voted down last week.  The committee voted 7-4 in favor of the penny-per-ounce sugar tax.  Supporters say it could discourage consumption of products that contribute to obesity.  However, opponents say the tax will send more shoppers out of state.

Three people have pled not guilty to manufacturing meth in Hancook.  Court documents indicated that the Vermont Drug Task Force made controlled purchases of methamphetamine from each of the men in November 2012.  If convicted, they each face between 5 to 20 years behind bars.

A lawmaker is proposing state registration for bicycles.  State Senator Norm McAllister is calling for a 20-dollar registration similar to a license plate for those 18 and older who want to ride bikes on Vermont roads.  The lawmaker points out millions have been spent on widening roads and making paths for bicycles, so tags would mean the bikers have to follow the rules of the road.  The bill was introduced yesterday, and is now with the Transportation Committee.

A coalition of physicians says Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed abortion rights bill will hurt women, forcing many into lifetime bouts with depression and guilt while making late-term abortions more common and more dangerous.  They say they know of no case in which a late-term abortion was needed to protect the health of a woman.  A Cuomo spokesman says the proposal would simply codify the federal law, not expand late-term abortions. But the governor still hasn't released the specifics of his bill.

St. Albans police say a leaking exhaust system is what lead to the death of a 17-year-old boy.  Logan Newell's car was idling in a Park and Ride lot Sunday in St. Albans, and police say carbon monoxide came in through vents, and within seven to nine minutes there was enough in the car to kill him.  As part of the investigation into his death, police discovered two leaks in the car's exhaust system.  Authorities say the teenager was aware of the exhaust problem and intended to fix it this week once parts he ordered were delivered.

Voters in Vermont have until 5:00 PM tomorrow to register to vote for Town Meeting Day.  All town offices will be open from 3 to 5 PM to allow residents the opportunity to have their names placed on a checklist.  Mailed applications are also due by 5 PM tomorrow.  Town Meeting Day this year will be March 5.

Monday, February 25, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 25, 2013

VTrans officals are looking for your input.  They will be holding a meeting tonight at Rutland High School starting at 6:30.  They are looking for feedback to help the agency prioritize and update its goals and track what matters to the public when it comes to road conditions and regional transportation issues.  VTrans officials say they will also inform people on the development of a state-wide transportation plan.  All are welcome at tonight’s meeting.

If there's no deal by Congress and President Barack Obama by Friday, massive federal spending cuts will automatically happen.  The White House put out a report yesterday outlining specifics state by state, and in Vermont, the biggest hit is in military cuts.  The report says about a thousand civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, cutting gross pay by nearly three million dollars.  Another big impact is school funding, with Vermont losing one-point-one million for primary and secondary education.  The President wants new revenues as well as spending cuts, while G-O-P leaders say they've already raised taxes, insisting on cutting spending instead.

A fire which destroyed a horse barn with an attached indoor riding ring is being considered "suspicious."  The fire was early Sunday morning on White Ridge Lane in Monkton, and was called in by a resident noticing an "orange glow" in the area.  Luckily, none of the two horses inside or the dozen outside in the paddock were hurt.  Damages estimates are in excess of 150-thousand dollars.

Voters in Vergennes on Town Meeting Day will be asked to approve a $1.85-million bond for a new police station.  Aldermen have discussed offsetting some of the tax impact of the bond by using traffic ticket revenue and possibly some Water Tower Fund money.  City officials will be hosting an informational meeting on the police bond tomorrow night at 7 PM at the Vergennes firehouse. 

On Town Meeting Day, Monkton voters will be asked to consider a $1 million bond to fund the construction of a new town hall and library on the 5-acre parcel of land on Monkton Ridge that the town purchased with funds raised through a 2006 bond. Town officials say the current town hall and library are insufficient for Monkton’s growing needs.

Not everyone is opposed to the idea of the new F-35 jet fighters being based at the Vermont Air National Guard base in South Burlington.  On Sunday, hundreds of people dressed in green and wearing green ribbons turned out for a rally in support of the jet and the Guard.  One member of the group said it was their way of saying "thank you" to the National Guard, as well as supporting the controversial proposal for the new jets to be based there.  Also there was Adjutant General-elect Steven Cray, who says the F-35's are a crucial addition to the Vermont Guard.

A proposed tax on sugar-sweetened drinks isn't going to happen in Vermont after all.  The bill never got enough votes to get out of the House Committee on Healthcare.  The bill called for a penny-per-ounce tax on the sugary beverages as one way to fight obesity and the health care costs going with it.  Bill sponsor Dave Sharpe says the bill isn't dead just yet, as the problem still remains.

Friday, February 22, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 22, 2013

The Vermont House has approved a statewide school property tax increase.  If the Senate also approves it, the statewide school property tax will go up 5 cents to 94 cents, per $100 of value for primary residents.  As for commercial and vacation property those rates will climb 6 cents to $1.44.  This comes after lawmakers rejected a previous proposal to scrap Vermont's current school funding system and replacing it with another amendment. 

Rutland Regional Medical Center will host Green Mountain Power’s third Rutland solar farm. The solar center will be built on Rutland Regional property surrounding two stormwater retention ponds just south of Allen Street, adjacent to the hospital’s walking path.  GMP, which will own and maintain the solar center, will put it out to bid this month. Under a 25-year lease agreement with Rutland Regional, GMP will credit the hospital for 10 percent of the project’s output. The remaining energy will go onto the local electric grid and will be consumed by local GMP customers.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch is pushing to save nearly $160 billion and strengthen Medicare.  According to a press release, Welch outlined his Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act to seniors at Bennington Project Independence.  Taxpayers fund more than three-quarters of the Medicare Part D drug benefit plan, which serves 28 million seniors.  During the debate over health care reform in 2010, Welch successfully included a provision identical to the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act in the House version of health care reform.  However, the provision was not included in the final law.

Consumers who purchased 3 or 5 gallon Poland Spring bottles since November 1, 2012 are urged to check for potentially contaminated bottles.  According to a press release, clean water is odorless and should not have any chemical smell.  The bottles may have become contaminated after Super Storm Sandy struck the eastern seaboard when residents in N.Y., N.J., and Conn. used some of the empty water bottles to transport gasoline.  The press release says that in the past 3 months, bottled water companies have detected and stopped the reuse of any bottles found to contain gasoline residue or fumes.

Experts need your help as they look for ways to reduce flooding on Lake Champlain and the Canadian river that drains into it.  To prevent a repeat of the Spring 2011 flooding that caused millions of dollars in damages, the International Join Commission recommended a 5 year study.  The study will cost up to $14 million to evaluate flood history.  The organization represents Vermont, New York and Quebec and is asking for the public's help brainstorming possible solutions.

A new poll out reveals overwhelming support for controls on guns and ammunition.  Over 600 Vermonters were asked by the Castleton Polling Institute if they agree with requiring strict reporting for mental health professionals to the national instant background system.  The survey showed 82-percent of gun-owners and 88-percent of non-gun owners favored the bill.  It also found 55-percent of gun owners favor a ban on the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazine, compared with 77-percent of non gun owners also favoring the ban.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 21, 2013

A boiler explosion at a nursing home in Rutland didn't hurt anyone, but the 89 seniors living there are now temporarily staying someplace else.  The blast and fire Tuesday was at the Rutland Health Care and Rehabilitation Center.  Some of the residents were moved down the street to the Rutland Regional Medical Center, while others were shifted as far away as New Hampshire.  The plan calls for everyone to return by Friday.

A bill raising statewide property tax rates for education has the first approval of the Vermont House.  The vote of 96 to 45 raises the rates to one of the highest levels in several years.  The residential property tax rate needs to increase five cents next year, according to one lawmaker, from 89 to 94 cents, with non-residential rates going up six cents.  Other lawmakers are not happy about the bill passing, saying their constituents have had enough.  This afternoon the House is expected to consider several amendments to the bill.

Residents in Bristol will be asked to consider a 6.4-percent spending increase on Town Meeting Day.  The increase in spending will fund a number of initiatives including moving the Bristol Police Department’s Headquarters to a new location.  An informational meeting will be held Monday Night at 7 PM at Holley Hall to discuss the spending increase and Police Department Proposed Budget. 

The idea behind a proposed tax on sugar-sweetened drinks is to cut back consumption of them, as well as bring in new revenue for health promotion programs.  It calls for a penny-an-ounce on sugary drinks, with supporters saying it could raise about 25-million dollars annually.  The House Health Care Committee has now approved it, and the Ways and Means Committee is looking it.  Governor Peter Shumlin, however, is not a fan of the bill.  He calls it regressive, and simply would not work to cut back sugar consumption.

Gen. Steven Cray will be the next commander of the Vermont National Guard.  Cray was elected this morning in a secret ballot of the Vermont Legislature. Cray received 125 of 173 votes cast, beating out three other candidates.  Cray is a brigadier general in the Vt. Air Guard. In recent years, he has headed up the guard's charitable foundation. As the adjutant general of the guard, Cray will automatically be promoted to the rank of major general. He succeeds General Michael Dubie who resigned last year to take a homeland defense position with the Air Force.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch was in Brattleboro this morning to announce new legislation that would prohibit employers from asking current or prospective employees to provide passwords to their social media accounts.  Representative Welch said, “While an employer may have a valid concern about the business impact of an employee's online activity, demanding passwords and unfettered access to private accounts is an over-the-top solution."

The state of Vermont is launching a new program to make low-interest loans available to businesses for renewable energy and efficiency projects.  The Vermont Clean Energy Loan Fund is expected to provide up to $10 million in financing for energy efficiency projects undertaken by businesses.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 20, 2013

A new bill being considered at the Vermont State House would limit cell phone use in Vermont public schools.  According to the bill, H.282, students would be prohibited from using cell phones or similar devices while classes are in session.  Under the bill, each school district would have to develop a policy on cell phones.  Exceptions can be made by the school district like cell phone use during lunch or non-classroom times or as teacher-directed component of a learning experience

Through the end of March, Rural Vermont will host several regional raw milk meetings to help raw milk producers prepare for inspection by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.  The meetings will also be an opportunity for farmers and homesteaders to voice their opinions about ways in which the raw milk law could be improved, and to network and share a meal with other raw dairy farmers.  Rural Vermont has been informed by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture's Dairy Section and Animal Health Division that they will be resuming inspections of farms selling raw milk direct to consumers.

Vermont Gas will hold a public meeting February 27, at 7 PM, at the VFW Hall on Exchange Street in Middlebury.  The meeting will review the controversial second phase of the Addison Natural Gas Project.  The meeting will review the project and discuss opportunities for community input into the transmission line routing through Middlebury, Cornwall and Shoreham.  The meeting will be moderated by Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay

Essex County could be hosting a casino soon.  The state is considering granting more regions permission to host casinos.  The only casino in the state outside of those on Native American land is the casino near the Saratoga Springs horse-racing track.  Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed building up to three casinos in upstate New York as part of a plan to enhance the state’s economy. 

Shots were fired at a school in Colchester Tuesday.  It happened at the middle school around 3 PM.  Luckily, students had already been dismissed and no one was hurt, though the school was in lockdown for about 40 minutes as athletic events were taking place inside.  Police say a 17-year-old boy fired BBs from the backyard of a home next door to the school, damaging two windows.  No word yet on if the juvenile will face any charges. 

Governor Peter Shumlin is planning on launching a statewide home energy challenge tomorrow.  A press release says 75 town energy groups have signed on to the Vermont Home Energy Challenge.  The challenge could save Vermonters more than $2.6 million on their heating bills every year.

The Rutland Architectural Review Board today approved the design of Green Mountain Power’s planned Energy Innovation Center.  The design will be an art deco motif that honors the building’s past as it symbolizes a new chapter in downtown Rutland.  The EIC will be the focal point of GMP renewable energy development, including efforts to make Rutland the solar capital of New England, with the highest reliance on solar per capita of any city in the region.

Friday, February 15, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 15, 2013

Middlebury has picked a jobs czar.  On Tuesday, the Middlebury selectboard endorsed Jamie O. Gaucher, deputy chief of the West Virginia Small Business Development Center, as the town’s first-ever business development director.  Gaucher, his wife Elizabeth and their young daughter are already looking for a home in Middlebury in anticipation of his job-start next month.  Gaucher will be expected to bring new jobs to Middlebury while helping current local enterprises become stronger.

Skiers who go out of bounds at Vermont resorts may face criminal citations in the future.  Senator Kevin Mullin introduced legislation this morning in response to this year's abnormally high number of rescue efforts.  Should it pass, skiers and riders that go beyond designated trails and require rescue assistance could face a trespassing charge.  As currently written, the fine would amount to no more than $500.

Before Bristol can get a new firehouse, residents must first pass two bond requests, the first one will be on Town Meeting Day.  A vote for the first bond will fund the purchase of more property next to the current firehouse and signify a commitment to complete the fire department upgrade on the North Street site.  The second bond vote, which town officials have said would likely coincide with the 2014 general election, would be an estimated $1.6 million to $2.2 million and would cover the construction and insurance costs of the facility upgrade.  Before residents make their final decision on the proposed bond requests, they are invited to tour the firehouse tomorrow morning from 9 to 11 and attend a public hearing on February 25 during the selectboard meeting at Holley Hall.

Once again, Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott broke a tie over a highly controversial bill, casting his vote to approve the end-of-life legislation.  The one finally passed Thursday is a much-reduced version of the original bill allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medicine to terminally ill patients.  The latest gives doctors and relatives immunity if they help a terminally ill patient end their own life.  The legislation now goes on to the House.

So much for Vermont getting a new state plane.  The V-Trans budget included a 155-thousand dollar line item for a new plane, with that amount paid each year for ten years.  The current state plane is 50 years old, and even the governor says it's not safe, adding he was a passenger one time when the door swung open while in flight.  However, Governor Peter Shumlin says this is probably not the year to spend the money on a new plane.  The old one is used mainly by the Agency of Natural Resources for aerial surveillance.

Middlebury College will host its 90th annual winter carnival today and tomorrow.  The Nordic races will be contested at the Rikert Nordic Center on the Bread Loaf campus in Ripton, while the alpine events will be held at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl on Route 125 in Hancock.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 14, 2013

Lawmakers are considering bumping up Vermont property taxes.  The House Ways and Means Committee approved raising the property tax for primary homes by five cents, and other properties six cents.  With this plan, income tax rates are pretty much not affected.  According to state budget experts, costs to taxpayers can't be predicted right now until towns firm up their local budgets, something which also drives spending decisions at a state level.

Governor Shumlin announced various education proposals during a press conference today.  According to a press release, the proposals would ensure that all Vermont children have access to quality education, core programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and post-secondary opportunities including college and job training.  One of the provisions called Flexible Pathways would allow Vermont high school students in their junior or senior year to attend up to two classes free of charge at the Vermont State Colleges, the University of Vermont and participating private institutions of higher education.

The Vermont Senate on yesterday gave preliminary approval to an amended bill allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to terminally ill patients.  But even some backers of the measure, which passed 21-9, called the amended version a travesty. Senator Claire Ayer said, “I will be voting yes for this bill, as much as I detest it.”

Price Chopper is voluntarily recalling fresh bagels and muffins containing raisins.  The store says the raisins may contain what they describe as "naturally occurring foreign matter" that does not meet their quality standards.  The recall affects products purchased between December 14 and February 8.  If you have any of those bagels or muffins, you can take them back to your local Price Chopper for a full refund.

Vermont is going to receive another $18.25 million in federal emergency road aid for damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene and the 2011 Spring flooding.  The funding is part of a $1.1 billion in new emergency relief fund approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.  The money will be used to help fix bridges and roads damaged across the state during these weather events.

Today marks the fourth day of a hearing before the state's public service board on Vermont Yankee.  The nuclear power plant's state license expired last March, and the hearing is on whether it should be allowed to operate for 20 more years.  The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already given its approval, and the battle over whether the feds' ruling trumps the state's opinion is still tied up in legal action.  The state hearing is anticipated to last for at least another week, maybe even into March.

For the second year in a row, Vermont has the title of being the least religious state in the union.  That's according to a new Gallup poll, asking people if religion is an important part of their life, and if they attend religious services every week, or almost every week.  In Vermont, only 19-percent of those surveyed fell into that category.  In fact, New England rounded out the bottom five, with Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 13, 2013

A new coalition has formed to oppose a new tax proposed on groceries at the Vermont State House.  A press release says Vermont residents, grocers, and beverage manufacturers launched the "Stop the Vermont Beverage Tax" earlier today.  The coalition was formed in response to a legislative proposal to place a penny-per-ounce excise tax on non-alcoholic beverages.  The bill is currently being debated in the Ways and Means committee.  A new fund would be created under the legislation called the Vermont Healthy Weight Initiative Fund where half the revenues from the tax would go.  The other half would go to the State Health Care Resources Fund.

Vermont officials are reminding anglers to remove ice shanties before the ice weakens.  Vermont State law requires ice fishing shanties to be removed before the ice becomes unsafe or loses the ability to support the shanty out of the water or before the last Sunday in March, whichever comes first.  The fine for leaving your ice fishing shanty on the ice can be up to $1,000.

Thanks to a "no" vote, the debate will continue on the physician-aided suicide bill.  The bill came to the Senate floor yesterday despite the majority of the Judiciary Committee saying they see a bill with serious flaws and that raises lots of questions.  What the Senate body had to vote on first was whether to reject it outright, and that got the "no" votes.  Then lawmakers spent hours debating the different facets of the bill. 

Senator Patrick Leahy says the time has come to pass comprehensive immigration legislation with a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants.  Leahy made the comments as he opened the Senate's first hearing of the year on immigration.  This comes a day after President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to renew his call for sweeping immigration legislation.  Leahy questioned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on efforts to secure the U.S. borders and improvements in deporting illegal aliens with criminal records.

Police are looking for a man accused of assaulting and robbing two women in the area of Ray's Seafood in Essex last night.  Authorities say around 7 o’clock, the male subject stole one of the victim's purse containing an undetermined amount of money.  The male then left in a silver truck.  The male is described as being white, 6'1", about 250 pounds with a small mustache.  Police say no weapons were displayed during the incident.

U.S. Census figures show that for the first time in almost three-quarters of a century Vermont lost population last year, a drop caused by more people leaving the state than moving in.  Even though last year's population decline was small, just under 600, it's part of a broader trend that has seen the state's population growth rate hover just above zero for several years.  The Census Bureau figures showed that Vermont and Rhode Island were the only two states in the country to lose population last year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 12, 2013

Planning has stated a natural gas line that will connect travel though Vergennes and Middlebury and eventually connect to International Paper in Ticonderoga in 2015.  Vermont Gas has already been meeting with residents in the towns between Chittenden County and Vergennes.  They are now planning meetings in Cornwall and Shoreham to discuss the pipeline’s proposed path to Lake Champlain.  Vermont Gas has scheduled an informational meeting for next Monday at 7 PM at the Shoreham Firehouse.  A similar meeting will soon be scheduled in Cornwall. 

Today is Hunger Awareness Day at the Vermont State House.  According to a press release, more than 8,200 people will walk through the doors at food shelves and meal sites around the state.  The Vermont Foodbank is striving, with the help of its staff, volunteers, Board of Trustees, and community partners to make 100 meetings with legislators on the issue of hunger.

Ripton voters on Town Meeting Day will be asked to spend up to $150,000 to put a new roof on their elementary school. And in a separate vote on the same day, they’ll be asked to add to that new roof 200 solar panels in order to generate electricity to reduce the school’s energy bill for at least the next 20 years.

The Vermont Federal Credit Union will soon be in its new location at One Court Square in Middlebury.  The Credit Union purchased the former Chittenden Bank property and has been remodeling the building.  The new space is 4 time larger than their current location on Washington Street.  Once the renovations are complete they will be moving to their new location. 

A group of Vermont lawmakers is joining with some civil rights groups to push for legislation that would create new rules governing police use of electronic stun guns. The bill they are proposing would set up statewide training and rules for law enforcement officers using Tasers and similar devices. This new push follows the death of a Thetford man who died of a heart attack after a state trooper shot him with a Taser.  A report last month found that trooper was justified using the stun gun.

Vermont police are investigating an armed robbery at the Sears department store in South Burlington.  The hold up happened at Sears at the University Mall around 1 o’clock yesterday afternoon.  Police say a masked man used a knife rob a clerk.  A K-9 tracked him across the street to the Anchorage Inn but lost the scent.  Police recovered a pair of sneakers and a knife in the Umall parking garage.

Monday, February 11, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 11, 2013

The controversial doctor-assisted suicide bill is going to the floor before the full Senate.  Despite having enough votes to stop it, the Senate Judiciary Committee allowed the measure to go ahead.  It's part of an agreement reached in the Senate Democratic caucus before the measure began, allowing the full Senate to debate it.  That begins on Tuesday, with a final vote possible late next week.  The bill would allow terminally-ill patients to get a doctor's prescription to end their lives.

Senator Bernie Sanders is about to unveil what he calls "the boldest piece of legislation" to move the nation's energy systems away from fossil fuels.  Sanders say the bill is needed to combat climate change.  It includes a tax on emissions.  Sanders adds dramatic cuts are needed in greenhouse gas emissions and the country needs to transition away from fossil fuels and focus more on renewable energy projects such as wind, solar and biomass.  Sanders plans to release details of the bill in the coming weeks.

Essex County's new emergency communication system will cost more.  The original price tag was $16 million, but now the Plattsburgh Press-Republican reports new technology, and an increase in attorney fees, has added another $1.7 million.  The Board of Supervisors will vote on the increased costs at a later date, and construction should begin this spring.

A Vermont fugitive wanted in a 2010 armed robbery in South Burlington has been arrested in Charlotte.  The U.S. Marshals Service says 57-year-old Kevin "Buster" Beaupre was arrested Friday morning.  Authorities say Beaupre has been on the run since May 2012 after he was convicted of assault and robbery with a weapon. Police say he entered a dwelling and robbed the resident at gunpoint in 2010.

If you're a Vermonter eager to file your taxes and get your refunds then you'll be happy to hear state tax forms are now available online.  Because of the fiscal cliff, paper forms will be distributed later than normal this year.  In the meantime, everything you need now is available electronically.  Officials say the personal income tax return booklet, as well as other helpful information, may be downloaded and printed from the Vermont Department of Taxes website.

The Vermont state panel that regulates utilities is beginning a new round of technical hearings on the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant.  The Public Service Board is meeting in Barre to hear witnesses on behave of Entergy’s bid for a certificate of public good to operate the Vernon reactor until 2032.  The hearings begin today and will move back to Montpelier for four days next week.  Entergy is trying to get a state permit to match its federal license.  The plant has been embroiled in a series of legal battles with the Shumlin administration and the Legislature.

If you look up into the sky for the next 2 weeks, weather premitting you should be able to see the planet Mercury.  The show begins about a half hour after sunset.  If you look to the west, you should be able to see Mercury should pop out of the twilight as a bright pink light.  If you are having problems finding it tonight, just look for the moon and you will find Mercury just below it. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 8, 2013

We won't get the blizzard conditions coastal New England is expecting, but plenty of snow is expected in our area.  Winter storm warnings cover the southern two-thirds of the state, with accumulations expected to pile up fast.  Nearly a foot is likely in southern Vermont, with lesser amounts in the north.  Snowfall will taper off, from west to east, early tomorrow.  Dozens of flights from Burlington, Plattsburgh, and Montreal have been cancelled, and Amtrak shut down Vermonter service to Springfield, Massachusetts.

Gov. Peter Shumlin has appointed a Ferrisburgh Republican to finish the 2-year term of the late Representative Greg Clark of Vergennes, who was struck by a car and killed late last year.  Warren Van Wyck has been appointed to the vacant seat.  Shumlin said that Van Wyck has big shoes to fill.  He says Clark's warmth and humor are missed in the Legislature.  District Republicans forwarded Van Wyck's name to the governor to replace Clark.

Expansion is planned for this summer at the Southern Vermont Regional Airport.  Nearly five-and-a-half-million dollars is coming from the transportation budget to help double the runway to six-hundred feet.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers still needs to approve a final permit, as the project includes work in wetlands.

The Empire State Winter Games are under way.  It's a multi-sport event in Lake Placid that has been around for more than 30 years. This year there are more than 1,100 athletes from across the state competing in a variety of winter sports.  This year's games kicked off last night and will continue through Wednesday.

Addison Northwest Supervisory Union residents on Tuesday voted down two Vergennes Union High School bonds totaling $6.2 million that would have paid for major improvements.  Some of the improvements included new roofing in several areas as well as improvements to the kitchen and cafaterria, the auditorium, and resurfacing one of parking lots.  He second bond would have funded an artificial surface for the school’s varsity soccer/lacrosse field and built a six-lane track to surround it.  The VUHS board is set to meet Monday night to discuss its next move. 

Brandon may be the site of the next medical marijuana dispensary in the state of Vermont.  Alexandra Ford of Rutland County Organics has been in negotiation with Chuck Mitchell Properties regarding the lease of a building on Lover’s Lane in Brandon.  The building in question recently housed a wood furniture manufacturing facility until late last year.

A bill that would allow doctors to help their patients end their lives is headed to the Vt. Senate floor without the support of the Judiciary Committee.  The committee wrapped up its review of the end of life bill this morning and voted to forward it to the floor with a negative recommendation.  The bill is again causing deep divisions at the Statehouse, with supporters saying people should have the right to end suffering from chronic illness and opponents saying doctors should not be in the business of killing people.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 7, 2013

Some Vermont lawmakers will be holding a press conference to discuss new F-35 legislation.  According to a press release, Representative George Cross (D-Chittenden-6-7) and the Stop the F-35 Coalition unveiled a bill to delay the F-35's from coming to the Burlington area.  He also proposed a complimentary bill designed to protect those who live in the 65 db impact zone.  The decision on whether or not to base the jets in Burlington is up to the Department of Defense.  No word yet on what location the Defense Department selected to house the F-35's.

Two dozen co-sponsors believe a soda tax is needed to fight obesity in Vermont.  The bill was submitted yesterday.  The bill would implement a penny, per ounce tax on sodas and sugar sweetened beverages.  Many doctors and other health leaders are on board.  Testimony for the bill, known as SSB, begins tomorrow morning in the House Healthcare Committee.

Should there be security cameras in the Rutland neighborhoods which have more crime?  That's what a local landlord is proposing, with the suggestion going to the town's Public Safety Committee after the Board of Aldermen first heard the idea .  The suggestion is to put surveillance cameras on public property in residential areas to cut down crime.  Rutland's police chief says while the cameras in downtown have helped, he wants to hear what the community says before he offers up an opinion for the neighborhood cameras.

It's not required now, but the whooping cough vaccination could eventually be required for every man, woman and child in Vermont.  That's what the bill now before lawmakers is calling for, as the illness can be especially dangerous, even deadly, for infants and children.  While 2010 recorded just 18 whooping cough cases in Vermont, the number spiked last year to nearly a hundred.  The Governor and Health Commissioner, however, are opposed to the bill as is the Vermont Coalition for Vaccine Choice.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says federal and state officials hope to complete funding arrangements for the rebuilding of the Waterbury state office complex by the end of the month.  The two sides are working to determine how much FEMA will contribute to the cost of reconstructing the Waterbury campus, most of which was flooded and made unusable by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.  The state has designed a project that would demolish some of the existing structures in Waterbury, repair others and build new structures above the flood level.

A member of the Middlebury College men's basketball team reached a milestone with scoring his 1000th point.  Jake Wolfin is now the 18th player in school history to pass that mark, and now actually has one-thousand-and four points in 108 games after the game this week defeating Lyndon State.  Another team member, Nolan Thompson did the same thing last month.  The Middlebury Panthers are currently ranked fifth with a 20-and-one record so far this year.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 6, 2013

The Postal Service is cutting their Saturday mail delivery service to trim costs.  A press release says during the week of August 5, 2013 they will transition to the new delivery schedule for mail delivery. This means mail will be delivered Monday through Friday.  The exception is package delivery which will still have Saturday service.  The changes are expected to save the post office $2 billion annually once the plan is fully implemented.

Vermont student test scores were released today from the New England Common Assessment Program also known as NECAP.   The results show the percentage of fifth graders who scored proficient in writing increased 5 points from 46% proficient in 2011 to 51% in 2012.  Writing at the 8th grade level increased 7 points from 59% last year to 66% last fall. High school students saw scores drop 2 points from 48% to 46%.  The NECAP exams are given in collaboration with Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

After two years of work and revamping, the state has a new sex offender website.  A 150-thousand-dollar federal grant paid for the project.  The new website gives the public more information about registered offenders and Vermont, and also makes it easier to find them.  Another feature allows citizens to receive e-mail alerts if a sex offender moves into their town.

Rutland County sheriff's deputies say they have three teenagers who went on a three-night shooting spree.  Dozens of windows in businesses and cars were shot out in late January, adding up to more than 50-thousand dollars' worth of damage.  The Rutland Herald is reporting Cody Vanguilder, Jacob Eels and Cade Bowen are pleading not guilty to multiple charges of unlawful mischief and reckless endangerment.  If convicted, the teens face up to 30 years in prison.

Once again, officials are warning people about the unsafe conditions on the ice.  It happened again on Lake Seymour this past weekend, when the ice buckled under the weight of a truck which crashed through.  Both the driver and passenger got out safely, but there's the problem of fluids leaking and causing environmental issues.  The most recent thaw, and the roller coaster of temperatures is to blame, with anglers planning on participating in an ice fishing tournament this weekend warned to be extra cautious.

A Green Mountain College student is behind bars, denying charges he beat and assaulted a fellow student.  According to reports, 22-year-old Arthur Field of Warwick, New York, allegedly assaulted a female student in his dorm room on January 26.  He is facing repeated aggravated sexual assault, a charge that carries a possible life sentence.  Green Mountain College has placed Field on an interim suspension.

Vermont lawmakers are once again raising the sticky subject of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.  Advocates are calling for a penny per ounce excise tax on soda and other sweetened drinks.  The goal is to generate money for anti-obesity programs, while creating a disincentive for people to buy the beverages.  Critics say the tax will not reduce consumption, but could hurt merchants in border towns.  The beverage industry says it should not be singled out from other sugar sources.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 5, 2013

One of at least five people suspected in a home invasion in Rutland over the weekend is now in jail.  34-year-old Christopher Orkins from Rutland, was arraigned yesterday afternoon and ordered held on 15-thousand dollars cash bail.  Police say the group broke down the back door of a home Saturday afternoon and used pepper spray on the people inside.  When the victims fought back, several were pistol-whipped.  Police say the victims recognized Orkins and one other man, Calvin Alexander, who is believed to have now fled the state.

Vergennes aldermen this past Tuesday settled on a $1.85 million bond amount to request from voters on Town Meeting Day to fund construction of a new North Main Street police station.  That amount includes $229,000 to buy the former Vergennes Auto Sales parcel, $21,000 to buy more land to the rear and side of the parcel, site work, construction costs for a roughly 6,000-square-foot building, and a $50,000 contingency fund.

An oil company and solar power business have a partnership to help Vermonters cut their energy costs.  Energy Co-Op of Vermont is offering Co-Op Solar in partnership with Sunward Systems of Shelburne.  Homes and businesses in most of northwest Vermont are eligible, and financing can be repaid completely through net savings of heating fuel.  It a site visit confirms it has sufficient sun exposure, the incentives/financing package means homeowner can switch to solar hot water with no out-of-pocket expense.

If Governor Peter Shumlin gets his way, 17-million dollars of state money will be invested in early childhood education.  The governor made the announcement Monday at Trinity's Children's Center in Burlington, saying his plan will fix a broken system.  He says lower income parents need to be able to afford quality childcare so they can work.  Shumlin says he wants a system which doesn't penalize most single moms who want to get a job.

Representatives of Vermont Gas Systems Inc. told Vergennes aldermen on Jan. 29 that natural gas — which they said is a cheaper form of energy than oil, propane and electric heat — will be available to most, but not all, city residents by 2015.

An anonymous but very grateful patient of a heart surgeon at Fletcher Allen Health Care has a spectacular way of saying "thank you."  The person was a patient of Doctor Frank Ittleman, and is donating one million dollars which will be used to establish a professorship in his name at the University Of Vermont College Of Medicine.  Ittleman says it's a win-win situation, as professorships attract top tier doctors, and interest generated from the money will help pay salaries, upgrade labs and still fund research.

Someone in Vermont could soon be very rich.  That's because tomorrow night's estimated Powerball jackpot has swelled to a whopping 208-million dollars.  The cash value of the jackpot is pegged at nearly 131-million dollars.

Monday, February 4, 2013

WVTK Local & State News February 4, 2013

Police have arrested one of the suspects in the Rutland, Vermont home invasion that took place Saturday.  He is being arraigned this afternoon.  Police believe there may have been a total of 5 suspects, two of which were named.  One of the named suspects may have fled to a neighboring state.  Police say the 5 suspects broke into a home on Maple Street in Rutland with 3 people inside.  The suspects kicked open the door and threw in a canister of pepper spray.  Police say the robbers then attached the victims in the head.  They demanded drugs and money before leaving through the front door.  Anyone with information is asked to contact the Rutland City Police Department.

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos is announcing paperless licensing.  According to a press release, paperless licensing is coming soon to 45 professions and occupations regulated within the Secretary of State's Office of Professional Regulation (OPR).  Condos says, "Making this change will increase efficiency, reduce costs, prevent fraud and protect the environment, without sacrificing public protection."   The press release says that the paperless licensing initiative begins immediately with the Office's largest license renewal of registered nurses whose licenses are set to expire March 31.

Police are investigating the theft of about $60,000 of gold, diamonds and other property during a burglary at a University Mall business in South Burlington.  The owner of Yin's Collectibles says the break-in was discovered when employees came to work Friday.  Police are investigating the burglary.

The controversial doctor-assisted suicide is moving on through the state Legislature.  Health and Welfare committee member unanimously approved it Friday, and it's now before the Senate Judiciary committee, where it's expected to be voted down.  The bill would allow patients with terminal illnesses and less than six months to live to be allowed to receive fatal doses of medications from their physicians.

A new poll shows the geographic divide over New York's new gun control law, with strong support in downstate urban and suburban areas and heavier opposition across the more rural upstate region.  The Siena College poll of 1,154 registered voters shows 65 percent support statewide for the more restrictive gun law.

New York state plans to open a stretch of land along the upper Hudson River this spring and fall.  The land was purchased in December for $12.4 million.  It includes a 10-mile track of the river flowing south from Newcomb. The river wanders through deep forests in nearly tranquil water interrupted by stretches of mild and moderate rapids.  The Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing a wilderness designation for the river and a swath of forest on both sides. It would allow two nearby parking areas for canoeists who want to leave the water.