Friday, May 16, 2014

WVTK Local & State News May 16, 2014

Vermont's unemployment rate continues to creep downward, registering at 3.3 percent in April, down one-tenth of a point from March. The state Department of Labor reports that the seasonally-adjusted rate, compared to a national average unemployment rate of 6.3 percent, nearly double Vermont's. The national rate dropped by four-tenths of a percentage point. Once again, Vermont ranked second-lowest in the country for unemployment, behind North Dakota, which is in the midst of an oil boom.

The Shumlin administration is developing a contingency plan to make certain that a possible lack of federal funds doesn't delay highway projects this year. Transportation Secretary Brian Searles says he's developing a plan with State Treasurer Beth Pearce to tap into the state's cash flow account on a short-term basis to make sure some critical road projects stay on schedule. Unless Congress acts by the middle of July, the federal Highway Trust Fund is going to run out of money for state road construction projects. Dozens of projects could be delayed in Vermont.

The Green Mountain National Forest is opening campsites for the season next Friday, May 23. A press release says over the past several weeks, the U.S. Forest Service employees and partners were working to prepare the sites and other camping facilities. The forest offers several recreational opportunities including picnicking, camping, hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting, boating and canoeing.

New York State Police will be participating in the Click It or Ticket campaign, which starts Monday. Police say they will be out in full force and enforcing seatbelt laws. Major Richard C. Smith, Jr., Troop “ B” Commander says, “Our Troopers are prepared to ticket anyone who is not wearing their seat belt, including drivers that have neglected to properly buckle their children. – Click It or Ticket.” In 2013, there were 5 crashes that killed unrestrained occupants in the area that Troop B covers.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont says the Veterans Affairs system needs to change. Sanders is the chair of the Veterans Affairs Senate Committee. Thursday, he led the questioning of Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs about reports of vets dying while waiting for care at certain hospitals. Sanders called every one of those deaths a shame, and something that has to be addressed. Shinseki says as far as he knows, the delays in treatment and other issues are isolated incidents. The inspector general is conducting an investigation into whether it's a bigger problem.