Wednesday November 28, 2012

Shumlin confident death with dignity will pass

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Gov. Peter Shumlin says he confident that the Vermont Legislature will pass marijuana decriminalization and death with dignity or what opponents call physician-assisted suicide legislation this session.

The Democratic governor also said Tuesday at his weekly press conference that he believes that other bills that he supports that would allow home-based childcare providers to unionize and immigrant dairy farm workers to get drivers’ licenses in Vermont will also pass.

Shumlin says the four bills are "the right thing to do."

He predicts the Legislature will have an ambitious session but have to make some tough financial choices, as the state grapples with a $50 to $70 million budget deficit.

Some Newark residents upset at Vermont wind ruling

NEWARK (AP) -- Some Newark officials are upset with a decision by the Vermont Public Service Board that it will not consider the town’s ban on wind projects when considering a developer’s request to erect test towers to monitor wind speeds in the area.

In another decision last week that upset some town officials, the board refused to dismiss the application to erect the test towers filed by Seneca Mountain Wind.

The town argued the company had not properly notified all parties of its plans, but the hearing officer ruled the application was "substantially complete."

Seneca Mountain wants to erect four test towers. If the wind proves suitable, it hopes to build about 35 turbines in Newark, Brighton, and Ferdinand.

Private Vermont group raises $6.6 million for Irene relief

BURLINGTON (AP) -- A private group set up to help Vermonters recover from flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene has raised $6.6 million to help fill gaps in their recovery after they’ve exhausted private insurance or government disaster assistance programs.

The Vermont Disaster Relief Fund has raised more than $3 million since the Aug. 28 anniversary of Irene hitting the state.

Fund Chairman David Coates says the fund has a goal of $10 million. The fund is financed by private donations.

On Monday Gov. Peter Shumlin urged people to continue making contributions.

The fund is designed to fill the gap that exists after survivors receive assistance from the federal government, private insurance or other grant programs. As of Nov. 16, the fund had provided $2.4 million in assistance to 223 cases.

N.H. GOP chairman won’t run for full term

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee is not seeking a full term.

Wayne MacDonald has been party chairman since September of last year, when former chairman Jack Kimball resigned moments before GOP leaders were expected to remove him. A former tea party leader, Kimball had come under intense scrutiny for lackluster fundraising and special election losses.

MacDonald, who has held a number of leadership positions with the party, had previously been the state party’s vice chairman since 2003. In a statement Tuesday, he called the job both a challenge and a privilege.

The party suffered significant losses in this month’s election, when Democrats won both congressional seats, the governor’s office and a majority in the state House.

New party officers will be elected Jan. 26.

N.H. Senator Rudman memorial service set

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- A memorial service Is being held in Washington, D.C., for U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman of New Hampshire who died last week.

Rudman spokesman Bob Stevenson said the Thursday tribute will be held in the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter of New Hampshire will speak. Other speakers include Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Maine Sen. William Cohen and Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.

Stevenson said Rudman, who died Nov. 19 at age 82, will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

He said another public tribute will be held in New Hampshire sometime in January.

Record number of Mass. voters cast ballots Nov. 6

BOSTON (AP) -- Secretary of State William Galvin says a record number of Massachusetts voters cast ballots on Election Day.

Galvin says 3,184,196 people voted on Nov. 6, or 73.3 percent of the state’s 4.3 million voters. That was about 81,000 more than participated in the elections of November 2008.

The final vote tallies are scheduled to be submitted to the Governor’s Council on Wednesday for certification.

Vote certification means that the right to repair and medical marijuana ballot questions approved take effect Jan. 1.

Galvin also announced that the Massachusetts Electoral College will meet at the Statehouse on Dec. 17 to cast the state’s 11 electoral votes for President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden.

LePage under fire for citing energy study

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- Gov. Paul LePage is under fire for citing a study that said Maine’s renewable-energy mandate would cost electricity ratepayers $145 million and nearly 1,000 jobs by 2017 because the study was funded in part by the fossil fuel industry.

The study was published by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in Boston, which has received significant funding from fossil fuel interests.

Jeremy Payne of the Maine Renewable Energy Association says the study was flawed, perhaps purposely, because it based its calculations on assumptions that renewable energy prices projected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration were too low and states wouldn’t enforce built-in cost containment measures.

A spokeswoman for LePage said the administration was unaware of the Beacon Hill Institute’s backing from fossil-fuel interests.

FEMA administrator tours storm-hit Connecticut cities

MILFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The top administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency has toured areas of Connecticut that were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy.

Craig Fugate stopped in Milford, Fairfield, Norwalk and Bridgeport on Tuesday and promised that the agency will help through the duration of the state’s recovery.

He said after a tour of storm-devastated properties in Fairfield that the agency knows the recovery will take years.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said some 10,000 claims have been submitted to FEMA in Connecticut. He said the agency has paid out more than $9 million to state residents and another $2.5 million has been provided through the Small Business Administration.

Connecticut seen rebounding slowly from recession

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget director says it’s taking more time than expected for Connecticut to rebound from the national recession.

Ben Barnes, secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, told members of the General Assembly’s two budget committees Tuesday the state is not expected to recover until the quarter beginning next July 1.

He said the state has had to frequently revise its economic forecasts. For example, the department expected the state’s unemployment rate would be 5.8 percent in fiscal year 2014. It now predicts it will be 7.4 percent.

Barnes presented the state’s annual Fiscal Accountability Report for the next four years. He said unlike previous economic recoveries, the rate of growth expected now for revenue from Connecticut’s income and sales taxes has not materialized.