Tuesday, January 7, 2014

WVTK Local & State News January 7, 2014

The Vermont Legislature has officially started the 2014 session.  Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith gaveled the House into session earlier today.  Legislative leaders say the two top issues they expect to be grappling with this year are closing a $70 million budget shortfall and helping combat the abuse of opiate drugs.  Smith says the differences of opinion among the state’s lawmakers are what best serves the citizens they all represent.

The lab at Fletcher Allen Health Care has confirmed two dozen cases of the flu, and indeed it’s the H-1-N-1 strain, the one five years ago called “Swine Flu.”  More than 30-flu-related samples were tested this weekend alone at the hospital lab.  Health authorities say the standard flu vaccine protects against this particular strain, and young people are the most vulnerable to it.  So far flu cases in Vermont are considered sporadic, and not widespread as they are in 25 other states across the country.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new state-wide tax plan yesterday.  The tax-reduction plan is targeted at property owners and businesses. The $2.2 billion package is supposed to help provide tax relief, job opportunities, and provide tax revenue for the state and local governments within the span of 2 years.  Governor Cuomo is also pushing to freeze property taxes for 2 years. He plans to do this by having the state pick up the tab for levy hikes.

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation is giving over $500,000 to 15 communities and nonprofits for recreational trail projects.  Funds may be used for the development, rehabilitation and maintenance of trails and trailhead facilities for multiple trail uses.  About half of the grant funds are awarded to Vermont Association of Snow Travelers for grooming, signage and safety patrol of the statewide system of snowmobile trails, with the other half divided between 14 other project sponsors.  Sponsors are required to contribute at least 20 percent of the total project costs. Municipalities and nonprofit organizations can now apply for Recreational Trails Program grant funds for fall 2014 and spring 2015 construction seasons.

During cold weather, pipes are susceptible to freezing and bursting.  Any pipes that burst can cause significant damage to the home and property.  Here are some ways you can help prevent frozen pipes:  Keep the house heated to a minimum of 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the inside walls from freezing.  Identify the location for the main water shutoff in your home and use it if you find one of your water pipes has burst.  You can also open hot and cold faucets enough to let them drip slowly. Keeping water moving within the pipes will prevent freezing.  And if you haven’t already, make sure all hoses are disconnected from outside spigots.