Thursday February 21, 2013

Shumlin agrees to reimburse for state plane use

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The campaign of Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has agreed to reimburse the state for the cost of a flight on the state’s airplane that delivered him to a campaign rally last September.

Shumlin had made other flights on state business last Sept. 27 before he asked to be flown to Middlebury rather than to the plane’s home base at the Berlin airport outside of Montpelier so he could attend a campaign fundraiser in Lincoln.

The Agency of Transportation valued the cost of the Lyndonville-to-Middlebury leg at $65.80.

Republican Party Chairman Jack Lindley said it was troubling the state sought reimbursement only after the details of the flight became public.

The state had sought to replace the aging Cessna 172, but withdrew the idea after lawmakers complained it was too expensive.

Bill would limit cellphone use in Vermont schools

RUTLAND (AP) -- A bill before Vermont legislators would limit the use of cellphones, hand-held video games and other electronic devices in school.

The bill introduced by Independent Rep. Michael Marcotte of Coventry would call for school boards to adopt policies prohibiting students from using the devices during school hours. But it would allow the boards to include exceptions during lunch, non-instructional time or at the direction of a teacher as part of a lesson plan.

Marcotte said he hears students use cellphones to bully others, and to share answers on tests.

Ken Page, executive director of the Vermont Principals’ Association, said the law is unnecessary. He said it’s well-intended. But he says schools have written policies on such matters.

Vermont could face $3 million in Pentagon civilian cuts

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Pentagon says Vermont could be facing about $3 million in Defense Department civilian payroll cuts if automatic government spending cuts kick in March 1.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress on Wednesday that if a budget deal isn’t reached, he may have to shorten the workweek for the "vast majority" of the Defense Department’s 800,000 civilian workers. They’d lose one day of work per week, or 20 percent of their pay, for up to 22 weeks, probably starting in late April.

Pentagon figures show its civilian payroll in Vermont for the 2012 fiscal year was $35.6 million, and about $32.6 million for 2013.

The biggest potential civilian payroll losses would be in Virginia, California, Maryland, Texas and Georgia.

Vermont man charged in
North Carolina cop shooting

MONTPELIER (AP) -- A Vermont man has been charged with shooting and wounding a North Carolina state trooper.

Police say Mikel Edward Brady, of Randolph, shot Trooper Michael Potts on Monday during a traffic stop in Durham, N.C.

Brady is being held on $8 million bail on charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill Potts, who was shot four times. Potts is recovering from his wounds.

Brady’s criminal record dates to 2007 and includes multiple convictions. He failed to report to his probation officer in Vermont in October. Since then he has been listed as an escape.

5 crashes on icy I-91 in Vermont Wednesday morning

WINDSOR (AP) -- Vermont State Police say there’s been a series of five vehicle crashes on an icy Interstate 91 in Windsor.

Police said the accidents happened early Wednesday on the northbound side. The interstate has re-opened; it was closed for several hours between exits 8 and 9.

Police said the first driver lost control of his vehicle and struck a guardrail. The second driver spun out and struck a guardrail while approaching the scene. A tractor trailer lost control and struck the second vehicle, which was pushed into a fire department truck. A firefighter was injured while escaping from the crash.

A fourth vehicle was passing by when it was struck from behind by a fifth vehicle.

Two of the drivers were suffering minor injuries and were taken to a hospital.

N.H. House rejects free ski passes for lawmakers

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire’s House has rejected a bill that would have allowed lawmakers to get free ski passes at Cannon Mountain.

The majority of the Legislative Administration Committee had recommended killing the bill that would grant the legislative perk. A one day lift ticket is $70 for an adult and the bill allowed unlimited free access.

House lawmakers rejected the proposal on Wednesday.

Opponents say using the perk a half dozen times would be worth twice as much as lawmakers’ biennial salary.

Supporters argue that lawmakers have open access to state parks which promotes awareness of the locations. They say skiing at Cannon doesn’t add costs to the ski area and encourages members to experience that part of New Hampshire culture.

N.H. could face $5 million
in Pentagon civilian cuts

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The Pentagon says New Hampshire could be facing $5.8 million in Defense Department civilian payroll cuts if automatic government spending cuts kick in March 1.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress on Wednesday that if a budget deal isn’t reached, he may have to shorten the workweek for the "vast majority" of the Defense Department’s 800,000 civilian workers. They’d lose one day of work per week, or 20 percent of their pay, for up to 22 weeks, probably starting in late April.

The Pentagon’s budget chief, Robert Hale, told reporters the economic impact would be felt nationwide.

Pentagon figures show its civilian payroll in New Hampshire for the 2012 fiscal year was $68.8 million, and about $63 million for 2013.

Mass. could face $45 million
in Pentagon civilian cuts

BOSTON (AP) -- The Pentagon says Massachusetts could be facing about $45 million in Defense Department civilian payroll cuts if automatic government spending cuts kick in March 1.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Congress on Wednesday that if a budget deal isn’t reached, he may have to shorten the workweek for the "vast majority" of the Defense Department’s 800,000 civilian workers. They’d lose one day of work per week, or 20 percent of their pay, for up to 22 weeks, probably starting in late April.

The Pentagon’s budget chief, Robert Hale, told reporters the economic impact would be felt nationwide.

Pentagon figures show its civilian payroll in Massachusetts for the 2012 fiscal year was $531.7 million, and about $486.7 million for 2013.

The biggest potential civilian payroll losses would be in Virginia, California, Maryland, Texas and Georgia.

Exam shows more Mass. students ready for college

BOSTON (AP) -- The number of Massachusetts high school students who are ready for college is rising after nearly 28 percent of those who took the advance placement exam last year scored a 3 or higher, which is considered a solid indicator of college readiness.

That is according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which announced Thursday that the number represents a 2.4 percent increase from the class of 2011.

Massachusetts trailed behind Maryland and New York nationally.

The performance of minority and poor students continue to improve, but African American as well as Hispanic and Latino students still lag behind Asian and white peers.

The percentage of public high school students who took at least one advance placement exam in high school rose to just over 39 percent last year, compared with nearly 22 percent in 2002.