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.