Monday January 28, 2013

Vermont Republicans rip health care report

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Vermont Republican leaders say they’re not impressed with a new report from consultants to the Shumlin administration outlining some of the financial impacts of the state’s planned single-payer health care system.

Republican Party Chairman Jack Lindley is pointing to a provision in the state’s 2011 health overhaul law saying the administration had a deadline of this month to report on how much the Green Mountain Care system would cost and how it would be paid for.

The new report says the state would need to raise $1.6 billion in new taxes, but Vermont employers and individuals will no longer have to pay $1.9 billion in private insurance premiums.

Lindley faults the report for not recommending how the $1.6 billion will be raised.

Environmental activist to address Vermont lawmakers

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Environmental activist Bill McKibben will speak to the Vermont Legislature about climate change and how it relates to the state.

House Speaker Shap Smith said Friday he’s invited McKibben to speak Wednesday afternoon.

McKibben’s been supporting a campaign to get resolutions on town meeting day ballots that oppose the shipment of tar-sands oil across northeastern sections of the state.

Smith’s office says it prioritizes climate change as one of the most important challenges facing the state.


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Vt. Fish and Wildlife has new plan for bears

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to help control the state’s growing black bear population by expanding the hunting season.

Vermont has an estimated 6,000 black bears, and officials say that’s the upper limit of goals set as part of the state’s 10-year big game management plan.

The population has been growing at a rate of about 4 percent a year, and the department would like to slow the population growth.

Beginning this fall, the regular bear hunting season will be extended an additional four days in the November deer rifle season.

There will be no extra charge for the bear tag on a hunting license during deer rifle season. Hunters who want to hunt bear before rifle season must purchase an early season bear tag for $5.

CEO leaving Vermont Yankee owner

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The head of the company that owns the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is stepping down this week.

J. Wayne Leonard has been chief executive of Entergy Corp. since 1999, three years before it bought the Vernon reactor from the group of New England utilities that had owned it before.

Relations between Vermont and Entergy have been rough in recent years, as the state sought and so far has failed to force Vermont Yankee to close down when its initial 40-year license expired last March.

In honor of Leonard’s tenure, Entergy is creating a $5 million endowment that it says is to address issues of climate change, poverty and social justice.

N.H. Senate voting on tax credit, school aid

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire’s Senate is voting Thursday whether to delay full implementation of a school aid law to prevent communities from getting less money this year.

Under a school aid law passed two years ago, communities were to see little change in aid levels over the first two years. Some communities stand to get less money this year and a group of lawmakers wants them to get the same aid they had been getting for one more year. The total aid in question is $3.4 million and affects 77 school districts.

The Senate also is voting on a bill to double a business tax credit for research and development. The bill also would make permanent the credit expiring in 2015. The state currently caps the total credits allowed at $1 million.

N.H. lift bridge tested, reopening for all traffic

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) -- A New Hampshire transportation spokesman says a lift bridge that’s been out of commission for days to motor vehicle traffic over the Piscataqua River is reopening. 

The 73-year-old Sarah Mildred Long Bridge connecting Portsmouth, N.H., to Kittery, Maine, was shut down on Wednesday after its center span got stuck during a routine test. The closing blocked shipping lanes until the bridge was lifted Saturday to allow boats to pass, but cars and trucks could not use the bridge. The ships carry heating oil and other supplies on the river.

Bill Boynton of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation said the bridge was lowered and tested Sunday and would be back to normal operations by about 7 p.m. for both ships and motor vehicles.

Compromise on taxes seen likely in Mass.

BOSTON (AP) -- Gov. Deval Patrick’s ambitious budget plan that calls for major tax changes to support new spending on education and transportation faces an uncertain road in the Legislature.

The governor was among the first to concede that compromise with lawmakers may be necessary.

The Legislature has a well-documented independent streak when it comes to tax and spending matters.

Patrick has proposed hiking the income tax from 5.25 to 6.25 percent, and lowering the sales tax from 6.25 to 4.5 percent.

Unlike last year, legislative leaders haven’t ruled out new taxes, but they have taken a cautious approach to Patrick’s proposals.

Michael Widmer of the nonpartisan Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation says he doubts lawmakers will approve such sweeping changes and may opt for a more modest tax plan.

Maine to report names of mentally ill to feds

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- Maine is taking steps to report the names of mentally ill people who pose a risk to society or themselves to the FBI for a national database to check gun buyers.

Starting this spring, the staff at Maine’s 38 courts will begin collecting those names and passing them on to the Maine Department of Public Safety. It will give them to the FBI, which manages the national background database.

Mentally ill people are legally prohibited from owning guns under federal law, but Maine has long been unable to add the names of such people to the national database.

Chief Justice Leigh Saufley said that court staff will file paperwork from all new cases involving mentally ill to the database as the cases go through the court system.