Tuesday February 26, 2013

Vt. health care subsidy increases may have life

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Vermont lawmakers say the House Health Care Committee’s defeat of legislation on health insurance subsidies may not mean death for the measure.

The House Health Care Committee on Friday killed -- on a 5-5 tie vote -- a bill to raise a new tax on sugary soft drinks and use the money to pay for public health education and subsidies designed to smooth the transition to a health care overhaul.

But supporters of the sugar-sweetened beverage tax say it’s an important measure to fight obesity -- and that they’ll continue fighting for it in other legislative committees.

And the Shumlin administration’s proposal on health insurance subsidies still is expected to get a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee.

Vermont hunting proposal allows 355 moose permits

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board has given preliminary approval for 355 permits for the state’s annual moose season in October.

The 355 permits proposed by the department represent a slight decrease from the 385 permits issued last year. Under the proposal, hunters are expected to harvest close to 200 animals during the Oct. 19-24 season.

Moose project leader Cedric Alexander says the intent is to allow slow population growth in some regions while continuing to stabilize moose numbers elsewhere.


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Alexander estimates Vermont has 2,500 to 3,000 moose statewide with the greatest concentration in the Northeast Kingdom.

Vermont also holds a special "archery-only" moose season, allowing 50 permits for Oct. 1-7.

2 Ohio plants to stop burning coal in deal

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Eight East Coast states, the federal government and citizens groups from Indiana have reached an agreement with one of the country’s largest electricity producers to stop burning coal at two Midwest power plans.

American Electric Power agreed late Friday in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, to retire or switch to natural gas two coal-burning units at power plants in Ohio and Indiana by the end of 2015.

As part of the settlement, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey will receive a total of $6 million. The Indiana groups will receive $2.5 million.

Cheap natural gas and environmental regulations are causing utilities to shut down coal-fired power plants. AEP had previously planned to stop coal at one unit.

Vermont brewers give hops research grant to UVM program

SPRINGFIELD (AP) -- The Vermont Brewers Association has given a $20,000 grant to the University of Vermont’s Extension Program for hops research.

The award presented Friday will be used to buy special equipment and set up a lab for testing the various attributes of hops. Currently, the program has to send the hops grown in its research yards out to contractors in the state of Washington.

Researcher Heather Darby said the grant will alleviate those costs for the long term.

Steve Polewacyk of the Vermont Pub and Brewery said most of the funding for the hops and grains program comes from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. He said it was important to show that the brewers are committed to this effort.

N.H. gets as much as 15 inches of snow

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire communities got anywhere from a few inches of snow in the latest winter storm, to over 15 inches.

As of 4 a.m. Monday, Rochester recorded the most amount of snow at 15.5 inches from the storm that started Saturday night and went into Sunday. Chichester and Canterbury each received 14 inches and Barnstead, Belmont, Laconia and Strafford each received 13 inches.

On the low end of the scale, Landoff and Newport each received 3 inches of snow.

New Hampshire House voting on bill requiring abortion wait

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire’s House will again be debating whether women should be required to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion.

The House Judiciary Committee is recommending that the House vote Wednesday to kill a bill that would require a woman’s doctor to provide her with certain information about risks and alternatives to the procedure. The woman would be required to certify in writing that she has received the information.

The House passed a similar bill last year but the Senate rejected it.

Conn. lawmakers debate resurrecting highway tolls

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Connecticut lawmakers are hearing mixed opinions about the latest legislative proposals to reinstitute highways tolls.

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi told members of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee Monday the state needs to find a way to generate revenue to help fix the state’s roads and bridges.

Rep. Tony Guerrera, the committee’s co-chairman, agreed the state cannot rely on gas tax revenues given the improved gas mileage of cars.

Several bills are under consideration establishing electronic tolls along Connecticut’s borders and on Route 11 in southeastern Connecticut.

Connecticut eliminated its highway tolls in 1985 after a tractor-trailer crash at a Stratford toll booth killed seven people.

Cindy Penkoff of Trumbull lost two family members. She opposes the bills, questioning whether the revenues would actually be spent improving transportation infrastructure.