Thursday, March 20, 2014

WVTK Local & State News March 20, 2014

Governor Peter Shumlin is giving small businesses another option when it comes to purchasing health insurance. There’s still some technical problems with the state’s healthcare exchange, and while the online payment system now works for individuals, it does not for small businesses. So, the Shumlin Administration is allowing those businesses to purchase coverage directly from Blue Cross and M-V-P, bypassing the exchange entirely for this year. The online system is expected to be up by this fall, but the governor’s office wanted to have the contingency plan of purchasing coverage directly in place just in case of a delay.

It’s been a bad sugaring season so far for Vermont maple syrup makers in the state, thanks to the continued intense cold. But when conditions finally ease up, the sugar makers will be getting a break from the new farm bill and the Rural Energy for America program, or REAP. The 50-million dollar program means sugar makers will be able to apply for grants or guaranteed loans to make their operations more energy efficient.

Changes are coming to how Vermonters can keep people off their land. The state is drafting new rules concerning those hard to miss no hunting signs and not everyone is happy with the changes. The new signs which could be enforced by Fish & Wildlife are simpler, telling people no hunting, fishing or trapping or for the first time by permission only. But here's the catch. Right now, the idea is nothing can be added to the signs including no trespassing to stop other people besides hunters. To stop other people, landowners would have to add a second sign saying no trespassing. Landowners will still have to date a sign every year, register with the town clerk, and post them every 400 feet around the property. Hunters caught breaking the law could lose their hunting license for a year.

The Vermont House passed a new $685 million budget for transportation spending in the state. The proposed bill will pay for a wide range of paving and basic maintenance functions, as well as containing some new features. One of the items is studying the use of unused rest areas as transportation maintenance depots. The bill also calls for upgrading 16.5 miles of railroad track linking New Haven and Leicester. The Transportation bill still need approval in the Senate.