Monday May 6, 2013

Vermont lawmakers: May 11 adjournment still possible

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Speculation is well under way at the Vermont Statehouse over when lawmakers might finish up their business for the year and go home.

House Speaker Shap Smith says it’s still possible to wrap up legislative business by the originally scheduled date of May 11.

Smith says that will depend on progress in the next couple of days on the House, Senate and Shumlin administration agreeing on tax and spending plans for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

But other big issues remain unresolved as well, including big differences between House and Senate versions of a bill allowing terminally ill patients to end their own lives with a doctor’s help.

Vermont lawmakers: More study needed
on shore bill

MONTPELIER (AP) -- It looks like efforts to protect the edges of Vermont’s lakes and rivers from the ill effects of development will have to wait another year.

Vermont lawmakers took extensive testimony this year on a bill designed to set up new buffer zones along the shores of lakes and rivers and protect them from development.

Some lakefront property owners protested what they saw as an attack on their property rights.

Now lawmakers say they want to hear more from the public. A special committee of lawmakers will hold hearings around the state during the next several months to draft legislation for expected passage next year.


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Amphibians, turtles visible during spring

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is reminding drivers that reptiles and amphibians are on the move this time of year.

The agency says amphibians migrate by the thousands each spring looking for breeding pools. They can frequently cross roads contributing to high rates of mortality among some species.

The Fish and Wildlife Department has been working to identify stretches of road where migrations take place and is working with the state Transportation Agency to include culverts and wildlife barriers in road construction plans.

Most amphibian crossings take place on several rainy spring nights. Steve Parren, the department’s wildlife diversity program director, says many frogs and salamanders are already well into their breeding season.

He says by late May, turtles will start crossing roads to build nests in sandy embankments.

Vermont drivers warned about moose

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is reminding drivers to be on the lookout for moose.

Officials say more moose are hit by vehicles in the spring than any other time of year.

The department says animals are on the move and more likely to cross roads especially after dark and in the early morning this time of year as they move to spring feeding areas.

Officials say drivers hit 98 moose on Vermont highways last year.

Moose also are active in September and October, during their breeding season.

The department says some of the roads most frequented by moose are Route 105 from Island Pond to Bloomfield; Route 114 from East Burke to Canaan; Route 2 between Lunenberg and East St. Johnsbury; and Route 12 from Worcester to Elmore.

Vermont mulls
changes to trout,
bass fishing rules

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board is considering allowing more trout and bass fishing and reducing the daily brook trout limit.

The proposal would open up 11 new river sections to catch-and-release trout fishing with artificial flies or lures outside of normal trout fishing season. Part of the Walloomsac River in Bennington would be stocked with brown and rainbow trout.

But the daily limit for brook trout would be reduced from 12 to six.

Bass catch-and-release open water fishing excluding ice fishing would be expanded outside of the normal season to all lakes, ponds and reservoirs not listed as seasonally closed. 

The board will hold three public hearings on the proposal on May 28 in St. Johnsbury, May 29 in Montpelier and May 30 in Castleton.

Auction to feature EKG of Neil Armstrong’s heartbeat

AMHERST, N.H. (AP) -- A New Hampshire auction house will soon take bids on space and aviation artifacts, including an electrocardiogram of Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong’s heartbeat taken when he first set foot on the moon.

Amherst-based RR Auction will take bids on the EKG recording and other artifacts during an online auction from May 16-23.

Other artifacts include the joystick controller operated by Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins in the Apollo 11 command module.

Auction officials say over 85 lots of Apollo 11 material will be featured in the auction.

Armstrong took his "giant step for mankind" on July 20, 1969. Buzz Aldrin later joined him on the moon’s surface.

New Hampshire Senate to hold hearings on House budget

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The New Hampshire Senate will hold hearings this week on the $11 billion two-year budget package passed by the House in April, which does not include $80 million in casino license fees called for in Gov. Maggie Hassan’s proposed budget.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Morse, a Salem Republican, has said the House budget relies on inflated revenue estimates as well as unnecessary tax increases on gas, diesel and cigarettes. Morse is a strong proponent of the Senate-passed casino bill currently being debated in the House, saying it would make such tax increases unnecessary.

Without the gambling revenues, House budget writers scaled back education aid, such as giving a smaller increase to the state’s university system and putting off implementation of a new school construction program.

Newtown board mulls plans for Sandy Hook school

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- Newtown, Conn., officials have met to discuss what to do with the elementary school where 20 first-graders and six educators were shot to death in December, but they haven’t made a decision.

A task force of 28 local elected officials met Friday night for several hours and will return next week for another meeting. They heard mixed opinions from residents on what should be done with Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The task force has narrowed a list of choices to renovating or rebuilding on the school site or building a new school on property down the street.

Brian Engel, who lost his daughter in the shooting, says he doesn’t want her brother going into the building where his older sister was killed.

He says, "We do want him to go to Sandy Hook school but at an alternative location, not where his sister died."

Below-average rain not seen drying up Mass. reservoirs

WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) -- Below-average rainfall is robbing surface soil of moisture, but rain and snow during fall and winter have left Massachusetts reservoirs at normal levels.

Worcester Public Works and Parks Commissioner Robert L. Moylan Jr. says the 10 reservoirs that provide the city’s public water supply are at the level they should be at this time of year.

Worcester’s reservoirs are at 102 percent of capacity and officials say it would take many months of drought before water levels would become a concern.

Some immediate problems loom. Spring is brush fire season and the Taunton office of the National Weather Service is warning of an elevated fire danger that will likely continue until at least Wednesday when forecasters are calling for rain.