Wednesday May 8, 2013

Police, FBI investigate 2 Bennington spas

BENNINGTON (AP) -- Authorities have searched two massage parlors in the Vermont town of Bennington as part of an investigation into possible human trafficking and prostitution.

Bennington Police, with the help of the FBI and Vermont State Police, searched the spas on Tuesday.

Detective David Rowland says no one was arrested. He says evidence was collected.

Police say they have received complaints for several months about possible human trafficking or prostitution at the two establishments.

The owners of the spas could not be reached for comment.

Vt. House committee approves GMO labeling law

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill requiring labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms.

But the measure isn’t expected to pass into law this year, because there isn’t enough time before the end of the session -- scheduled this weekend -- to get the bill through the Senate.

If it passes the House, as expected, the Senate will likely take it up in January.

Critics are warning that if Vermont enacts such a law, it will attract a lawsuit from the food or biotech industries.

Rep. William Lippert, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told his colleagues on Tuesday that the public interest in labeling is worth that risk.

Vt. House approves immigrant license bill

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont House has passed a bill to allow immigrant farmworkers in the state to drive, regardless of their immigration status. The vote was 105 to 39.

Backers of the bill say it will provide much needed mobility to about 1,500 workers who are credited with keeping many labor-starved Vermont dairy farms in operation.

Critics speaking out in House debate on Tuesday said the new driver’s privilege cards could be used by terrorists. Rep. Duncan Kilmartin, a Newport City Republican, also spoke repeatedly about what he saw as a threat posed to Vermont by Mexican drug cartels.

That drew a strong rebuke from Rep. Kesha Ram, a Burlington Democrat, who argued that denying the ability to drive to the workers would be to deny them equality.

Vermont Senate votes down version of
aid-in-dying bill

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont Senate remains as sharply divided as it was in February over legislation to allow doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it.

After nearly three hours of debate Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott broke a 15-15 tie, rejecting a version of Oregon’s death-with-dignity law.

The Senate put off until Wednesday a vote on whether to approve a House-passed version of the bill.

Vt. Senate votes to decriminalize marijuana

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont Senate has approved legislation that would remove criminal penalties and replace them with civil fines like a traffic ticket for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana.

By a vote of 24-6, the Senate on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill similar to one that already has passed the House.

The Senate version has some differences from the bill that passed the House, among them that fines would increase for a second or third and subsequent offenses.

The Senate bill also contains a provision under which someone profiting from the sale of marijuana could face enhanced penalties for not paying taxes on the income from drug sales.

N.H. medical marijuana advocates push for home-grow

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Medical marijuana advocates are trying to persuade New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan to support a provision allowing patients to grow marijuana at home, saying it’s crucial to ensuring immediate access for terminally ill patients.

Hassan has said she is concerned the state can’t effectively regulate the drug being grown at residences.

Flanked by lawmakers and potential patients at a press conference Tuesday, Matt Simon with the Marijuana Policy Project said he was disappointed in Hassan’s decision and will continue fight for home cultivation. 

N.H. home burglarized while couple out doing yard work

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) -- A New Hampshire couple say their home was burglarized over the weekend while they were outside doing yard work.

Police in Manchester say someone entered through the front screen door, which was left open because of the nice weather.

The couple say a laptop and a digital camera were taken.

Bill would loosen
cap on Massachusetts charter schools

BOSTON (AP) -- Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is calling on state lawmakers to remove limits on charter schools in underperforming school districts and strengthen the power of school administrators to intervene in struggling schools.

Menino, who recently announced he would not run for a sixth term, told the Legislature’s Education Committee on Tuesday not to "wait for a school to fail before we give it the tools to succeed."

Menino said he wanted to expand on a 2010 education law that created "in-district" charter schools and has already led to the turnaround of several underperforming schools in the city.

But a coalition of teachers groups and school superintendents oppose lifting any cap on charter schools and back a separate bill that calls for a collaborative approach to improving schools that are drifting toward failure.

Disbursement of donations to Newtown postponed

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) -- The foundation overseeing more than $11 million donated to Newtown, Conn., following the December massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School has postponed hearings on the disbursement of that money.

The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation will instead meet with state Attorney General George Jepsen to address concerns raised by some of the victims’ families.

Jepsen’s office says it wants to discuss the decision to disburse $7.7 million to the families most affected by the tragedy.

The foundation had planned hearings Tuesday and Wednesday to help divide that money among families of the 26 people killed, 12 surviving children from the classrooms where people were shot and the two people wounded during the shooting.

The group has said decisions on how to spend the rest of the money would be made over time.

Biggest cruise ship to visit Maine ... in 2015

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- The world’s largest cruise ship will be paying a visit to Portland, but residents will have to wait two years to catch a glimpse.

Portland officials say the city will welcome Royal Caribbean’s newest cruise ship, Quantum of the Seas, for the 2015 season. It’ll be about 10 feet longer than the Queen Mary and will have passenger capacity for 4,180 people when it sets sail in the winter of 2014.

This year’s cruise season already has kicked off in Bar Harbor, and Portland’s first cruise ship will visit on June 1.

More than 200,000 people visited Maine on cruise ships. Bar Harbor was the biggest draw with 108 stops, while Portland had 59.

Maine gas prices
down a penny

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- The cost of a gallon of gas in Maine continues to trickle down, but the party may be over.

Price-monitoring website MaineGasPrices.com reports Monday that the average retail price of a gallon of gas in Maine dropped just over a penny in the past week to $3.49.

With the national average inching up a penny, Maine’s prices are now two cents lower than the national average.

In-state prices are now almost 37 cents lower per gallon than at the same time last year and 16 cents lower than a month ago.

A company analyst says prices in some areas of the country are already on the rise again with crude oil prices on the way up.

Maine prices are based on a survey of more than 1,200 gas stations.