Wednesday February 6, 2013

Proposed bills would decriminalize pot in Vt.

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Bills newly introduced in the Vermont House and Senate would decriminalize marijuana, making penalties for possessing small amounts similar to a traffic ticket.

Thirty-nine House co-sponsors, led by Progressive Rep. Chris Pearson of Burlington, are backing a bill that would decriminalize possession of up to two ounces, two mature plants and seven immature plants.

The Senate version, on which Senate Minority Leader Joe Bennng is leading eight co-sponsors, would decriminalize possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.

House Speaker Shap Smith says he has misgivings about marijuana decriminalization. But he says he won’t block a bill from being debated by the full House if it is approved by the Judiciary Committee.

Vt. to share info on wildlife violators

MONTPELIER (AP) -- A hunter whose license is suspended in Vermont can no longer hunt in 38 other states.

The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Monday that it’s joining those other states in sharing information about hunting and fishing license suspensions to deter people from violating hunting, fishing and trapping laws elsewhere.

Under the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, any person whose license privileges are suspended in one compact member state will have his or her licenses suspended in all other states that belong to the compact.


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Vermont chief game warden, Col. David LeCours, said the compact is an added deterrent for Vermonters who might be tempted to violate fish and wildlife laws at home and then expect to hunt, fish or trap in other states.

"Also, we didn’t want Vermont to be one of the last states where bad actors from other states can come to violate our fish and wildlife laws," LeCours said.

Vt. Dems rip GOP over school lunches

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Vermont Democrats are firing barbs at Republican leaders in the state House after GOP members of a House committee voted against a proposal to provide free school lunches for low-income students.

House Minority Leader Don Turner says he wanted to vote up or down on several Shumlin education proposals as a package, so there would be a better understanding of their cost.

Democratic Chairman Jake Perkinson says providing free school lunches to low-income children should be a no-brainer.

Proposal boosts N.H. aid to charter schools

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Charter school supporters are urging New Hampshire lawmakers to increase state aid to charter schools.

State Rep. Ken Weyler, R-Kingston, told the House Education Committee on Tuesday the current state aid level isn’t fair when the amount taxpayers spend on public schools is taken into account.

Weyler is the prime sponsor of a bill to set the aid level at half the statewide average cost per pupil. Weyler said charter schools now get $5,450 per student. Under his proposal, the schools would get about $1,100 more per pupil based on the statewide average for the last school year.

N.H. tax collections $17M below estimates in January

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire’s tax collections last month were $17 million less than expected and that doesn’t include almost $14 million in refund requests.

Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Hodgdon said January was a disappointing month, especially for business tax collections. Still to be processed are requests for almost $13 million in refunds from businesses and $1 million from people who pay the state tax on interest and dividends.

Total revenues for the year lag $30 million behind projections largely due to unpaid hospital taxes.

The state taxes hospitals on net patient revenues. The hospitals did not question the guidelines used to determine what was taxable until the current budget was passed that cut state payments to hospitals. Ten hospitals are suing the state over the cuts.

Mass. reports January tax revenue gains

BOSTON (AP) -- Massachusetts is reporting that January tax collections were up more than 12 percent.

Revenue Commissioner Amy Pitter said Tuesday that preliminary revenue collections were up $249 million over the same month a year ago. They also beat the state’s revised monthly benchmark by $173 million.

Pitter said the January numbers should be viewed with caution because they reflected continued uncertainty among investors and businesses stemming from the last-minute "fiscal cliff’ deal in Washington.

She also said a delay in the opening of the federal tax filing season may explain a 72 percent drop in income tax refunds, compared to January 2012.

Income tax collections rose more than 18 percent, but sales tax collections inched up less than 1 percent.

Quotas reduced for Maine shrimp ‘trappers’

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- There are some new restrictions for trap fishermen as their Gulf of Maine shrimp season gets under way.

Maine Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher lowered the daily limit from 800 pounds to 500 pounds for trappers for their season beginning Tuesday. Trappers will be allowed to haul around the clock, Monday through Saturday.

Late last week, Keliher also lifted time-of-day restrictions on trawlers, allowing them to cast nets around-the-clock on Mondays and Wednesdays, the days they’re allowed to fish.

The shrimp season got under way on Jan. 23 with a quota reduction that lowered the limit to 1.4 million pounds, a 74 percent decrease from 5.3 million pounds last year.