New England briefs

Vermont becomes 5th state to require paid sick leave

Vermont has become the fifth state to require employers to provide paid sick leave to workers.

Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin signed the bill Wednesday. Supporters say about 60,000 Vermont workers do not have paid sick time.

The law requires employers to provide a minimum of three paid days off a year for employees to use when they are sick or to care for a child or family member. Employers with more than five employees must provide the benefit next year while those with five or fewer have until 2018.

The mandatory amount increases to five days in 2019.

Vermont joins California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oregon as states mandating paid sick leave. More than 20 cities and the District of Columbia also have mandatory paid sick leave.

Vermont bill would enhance social worker protections

The Vermont Senate is slated to debate a bill that would enhance penalties for assaulting state child protection workers and those required by law to report suspected child abuse.

The Legislation follows last year's killings of a Department for Children and Families worker and three relatives of the person charged with the killings. Jody Herring of Barre is being held in the shooting deaths of state social worker Lara Sobel and three of Herring's relatives.

The bill adds a year in prison for a first offense and 10 years for a second offense to underlying penalties for assault and aggravated assault against people in certain professions. If it passes, those would include state social workers and mandatory reporters.

Vermont education revenues see big jump due to Powerball

The Vermont Administration Agency says the state's education fund was almost 25 percent above expectations last month largely because of a huge Powerball jackpot in January.

In the state's February revenue report released Tuesday, Administration Secretary Justin Johnson said the education fund brought in nearly $16.6 million last month, above its target of $13.3 million.

For the fiscal year to date, the education fund is more than 4 percent above expectations.

General Fund revenues were above target, but most of that was due to a slowdown in personal income tax refunds due to concerns over taxpayer fraud. The transportation fund was about 7.4 percent below its monthly target.

Bill would have Vermont voters register at DMV

The Vermont House has passed and sent to the Senate a bill calling for automatic voter registration when someone gets a state driver's license or non-driver ID. Supporters say the aim is to increase the number of registered voters in the state.

Someone getting a driver's license or ID could check a box on a form saying they do not wish to register to vote, but backers of the bill say they believe the initiative will prompt most people to sign up for both driving and voting at the same time.

House Speaker Shap Smith says many states are passing voter ID and other laws designed to limit voter participation. Smith says he's proud to see Vermont going the opposite way.

New Hampshire rep accused of trying to lure teen resigns

A New Hampshire state representative who has been charged with trying to lure a 14-year-old girl into a sexual encounter resigned Wednesday.

Republican Rep. Kyle Tasker's brief letter of resignation, dated Monday, was read before the full state House by a clerk on Wednesday, and accepted by House Speaker Shawn Jasper.

"Dear Speaker Jasper, I am writing to resign my seat as representative from Rockingham County, District 2," the letter read. "I appreciate all your courtesies during the time I served in the New Hampshire Legislature. Sincerely, Kyle Tasker."

The 30-year-old Tasker, of Nottingham, was arrested last week on three drug charges and one count of using a computer to lure the girl. Police said he tried to meet her, but instead was greeted by law enforcement.

Jasper and New Hampshire Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn had called on Tasker to resign.

Tasker was in his third, two-year term. He and his lawyer have not commented on the charges.

Tasker was released Monday on $50,000 bail and faces a hearing on March 21.

Police said their investigation began with a complaint from the teen's mother in January saying the girl met Tasker at a breakfast, friended him on Facebook and began receiving inappropriate messages from him.

The mother told police he had asked the girl how old she was. When she replied 14, he responded, "girls like you can get me in trouble," she said. She said he also said he could get alcohol or marijuana for the girl and proposed a three-way sexual encounter.

By the end of January, the girl and her mother agreed to the undercover operation and police took control of the girl's Facebook account.

LePage administration opposing solar power compromise

Gov. Paul LePage's administration says a compromise that would increase Maine's solar power capacity from about 18 megawatts to 250 megawatts over five years would hurt ratepayers.

Energy office staff members said the plan keeps subsidies for homeowners who install rooftop solar panels. They say they prefer a market-based solution.

The compromise is supported by solar installers, the state's Office of Public Advocate, Central Maine Power and Emera Maine. Supporters say the plan would create about 800 jobs and help all ratepayers.

Under the plan, utilities would buy output from each market segment. Revenue from power sales would be used to offset contract costs. Existing customers would be able to net meter through 2029.

A public hearing on this issue is expected next week.

Tapping of Blaine House tree marks start of maple season

Maine Gov. Paul LePage is kicking off the maple syrup season by tapping a tree on the Blaine House lawn.

Maine maple syrup producers are joining the governor at the annual event on Tuesday. The event is symbolic because the season is already underway in some places.

Thanks to the warm winter, the sap began running for some producers last month in northern New England.

It takes warm days and cold nights for sap to flow, but too much warmth— spring and buds on maple trees —brings a quick end to the season.

Maine Maple Syrup Sunday will be held later this month, March 27. The event coincides this year with Easter.

– The Associated Press


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