Thursday, February 12, 2015

WVTK Local & State News February 12, 2015

The Vermont Supreme Court has given permission to the Public Service Board to launch a second investigation into Phase I of the Addison Rutland Natural Gas Project. The Department of Public Service encouraged the PSB to evaluate whether the project still deserves a Certificate of Public Good, or if that Certificate of Public Good should be amended to reflect substantial changes to the project. The Supreme Court stated that there is no time limit on the remand, but the PSB must update the court on the case every 30 days, starting March 15. Construction on the project has been suspended while the ground is frozen. The company projects to complete Phase I by the spring of 2016.

The Vermont Department of Taxes has started issuing tax refunds checks. The Department halted sending out refunds last week after an influx of fraudulent returns being filed in the state. As of last Friday, 121 phony returns had been filed. The department has allocated additional staff to work on fraud full-time. Returns flagged by software as possible fraudulent are being manually reviewed by staff members. Tax Commissioner Mary Peterson urges Vermonters to get their tax returns in promptly in order to head off any criminals trying to file in your name. To check if that has already happened, go to the Tax Department's website.

The Vermont chapter of the National Education Association, the largest union in the state, is supporting legislation that would remove the philosophical exemption to vaccinations for parents who don't want their children immunized. Vermont-NEA President Martha Allen says the fact that almost a third of Vermont's public schools have vaccination rates lower than what's considered safe is alarming and unacceptable. She says now that the country is seeing the worst measles outbreak since it was eradicated nearly 15 years ago, it's time to make sure children who can be vaccinated gets the protection they and society deserve. Vermont is in the top three states for people taking the exemption. Lawmakers have announced plans to introduce a bill to eliminate the exemption. A similar effort failed three years ago.

A Vermont lawmaker says expanding the number of DNA samples taken into a state database will be put off for at least a year due to a backlog in the existing program. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been considering a plan to collect DNA samples from anyone convicted of a misdemeanor. Vermont currently collects samples just from those convicted of felonies. But Senator Richard Sears, the committee's chairman, says public safety officials have told the committee that the existing program has a backlog of about 2,500 DNA samples waiting to be processed.