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.