Friday February 15, 2013

Senate gives final passage to assisted death bill

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont Senate has passed a bill freeing doctors and family members from criminal or civil liability when they attend to a terminally ill patient who decides to end her or his own life.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott once again broke a 15-15 tie on a key procedural vote that cleared the way for final passage of the bill variously dubbed physician-assisted suicide or death with dignity on a 22-8 vote

The bill now moves to the House, where Gov. Peter Shumlin says he hopes it will emerge closer to the form originally filed in the Senate.

The original bill contained more safeguards to ensure the patient requesting a lethal dose of medication was of sound mind and was not under any undue pressure.

Governor’s commission visits Vt. wind projects

SHEFFIELD (AP) -- Members of the Vermont Governor’s Energy Siting Policy Commission have visited two wind projects as part of a statewide tour of energy production facilities.

The tour Tuesday brought commission members to the top of the ridgeline in Sheffield where First Wind of Boston operates 16 industrial wind turbines. The commission also toured the site of wind project in Lowell.

Some legislators are seeking a three-year wind moratorium on large-scale wind projects. They want a more thorough environmental review of them.

Commission member Jan Eastman said the impacts and sizes of energy projects are among the major issues the commission is evaluating,

The panel is charged with reporting its findings to the governor and the Vermont Legislature by April 30. It has a meeting on Feb. 20.

Vt. gets $18.25M more for more Irene road repairs

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The state of Vermont is planning to spend about $22.5 million to continue with road and bridge repairs of damage caused by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene and other floods in 2011.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter says the federal government is planning to contribute $18.25 million while the state must come up with the rest.

She says the money will help pay for final repairs to roads and bridges that were fixed temporarily after the storms knowing those repairs would have to be revisited in the future.

The federal funding is part of $1.1 billion in new emergency relief funding approved by Congress. To get the federal funds Vermont will have to contribute about $4.26 million as a state match.

Advocates decry Vt. Reach Up Cuts

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Advocates and beneficiaries say Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin’s plan to cut a key welfare-to-work program by limiting the amount of time people get benefits will increase poverty and homelessness in Vermont.

Shumlin wants to put a three-year limit on the time someone can be getting public assistance while they try to go to school or get into the workforce. His plan would allow two later extensions of benefits to total five years over a person’s lifetime.

People affiliated with Vermont Legal Aid and the Vermont Workers’ Center held a news conference on Thursday to say that the proposed change to the state’s Reach Up program will leave 1,200 Vermont households without any income as of Oct. 1.

Shumlin has argued Vermont is currently the only state without a time limit.

GOP questions gambling, possible
gas tax increase

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Republican legislative leaders say Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan should not have included $80 million in gambling licensing fees in her budget when New Hampshire has yet to pass casino legislation.

House Republican Leader Gene Chandler said Hassan is gambling that the House -- which has never passed a casino bill -- will approve it to help pay for state spending. He said if lawmakers refuse to pass the bill, they will have to make $80 million in cuts.

Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Morse -- a sponsor of the gambling bill -- said he expects the Senate to pass it, but he questioned if the Senate would support an increase in the gas tax as an alternative to paying for highway improvements. The Senate’s gambling bill earmarks some revenue to highways.

N.H.gov backs Medicaid expansion under health law

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan is backing the expansion of Medicaid under the Obama administration’s health overhaul law, saying it is the right thing to do for the state’s economy, finances and families.

New Hampshire’s current program covers low-income children, pregnant women, parents with children, elders and people with disabilities. But the federal health law gives states the option to expand it to adults earning up to 138 percent of federal poverty guidelines, and for those states choosing expansion now, the federal government will pay the entire cost for three years and 90 percent after that.

Hassan, a Democrat, told lawmakers Thursday she is appointing a commission to advise her on the expansion, which faces opposition from Republicans who don’t believe the federal government will live up to its promise.

N.H. Gov proposes restoring funding for higher education

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire’s public colleges and universities are among the biggest winners under the budget proposal laid out by Gov. Maggie Hassan.

Hassan told lawmakers Wednesday that she wants to spend $75 million on the state university system in fiscal year 2014 and $90 million the following year. That would bring funding back to almost what it was in 2011, before the Republican-led Legislature slashed the amount nearly in half.

Hassan also proposes $83 million over two years for community colleges, and $4 million for need-based scholarships that could be used at private and public universities.

The leaders of the university system -- UNH, Keene State, Plymouth State and Granite State College -- say they will ask their trustees to freeze instate tuition for two years if their funding is restored