New England in Brief

Thursday February 7, 2013

Vermont scores show
improvements in writing

MONTPELIER (AP) -- Test results show Vermont elementary and middle school students are getting better at writing but math scores among high schoolers are troubling.

The 2012 New England Common Assessment Program scores show improvements in writing, with 66 percent of middle school students and 51 percent of elementary school students proficient in the topic.

Math scores remain unchanged in elementary and middle school with 65 percent proficient. The high school score improved two percentage points but remained low at just 38 percent meeting the mark.

Vermont Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca says high school mathematics is a high priority for the agency. He says if Vermont’s students are going to be ready to continue their education beyond high school and be successful in the 21st century, they need stronger math skills and knowledge.

Vermont attorney general says GMO labeling bill is ‘risky’

MONTPELIER (AP) -- The Vermont attorney general’s office is flashing the yellow caution light as lawmakers consider a bill that would mandate labeling of foods made with genetically modified organisms.

The House Agriculture Committee took testimony for the first time this year on a GMO labeling bill and heard words of caution from Assistant Attorney General Bridget Asay .

She told the committee on Wednesday that a Vermont labeling law almost certainly would draw a lawsuit or lawsuits from the food industry, and she said the outcome of such suits would be very uncertain.

She said the industry likely would argue that Vermont was exaggerating the risks of foods containing GMOs, and that any labeling requirement would violate the First Amendment.

Shumlin hopes to drum up investors at Florida trip

COLCHESTER (AP) -- Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is traveling to Miami to attract investors for a big economic development project in the Northeast Kingdom.

Developer Bill Stenger hopes to use foreign investments raised through a program called EB-5 to expand Jay Peak Resort, build a bio-tech research and manufacturing center, and make upgrades to the state airport in Coventry.

Shumlin said he promised Stenger and his partners to help raise the $600 million they estimate will be needed to create some 10,000 jobs in the area.

Shumlin sees Wednesday’s trip to Florida as a chance to grow jobs in Vermont.

Vermont interstate bridge woe damages passing vehicles

COLCHESTER (AP) -- Vermont State Police say a section of an Interstate 89 bridge in Colchester came loose, damaging seven vehicles that crossed the bridge.

Police say that just before 9 p.m. Tuesday a portion of a bridge plate in the right lane of the northbound interstate near the Colchester weigh station came loose.

There were no injuries, but two of the affected vehicles had to be towed from the scene.

Police say the damage was flattened tires and undercarriage damage to the passing vehicles.

There’s no word what caused the problem, but the right lane of the interstate was closed and Transportation Agency crews are working Wednesday to repair the problem.

Vaccination bill back in Vermont

MONTPELIER (AP) -- A Vermont bill that removes a philosophical exemption for parents who want to skip the requirement that their children get a series of vaccinations before being allowed to attend school is back before legislators.

The bill is designed to deal with a state whooping cough outbreak.

The Shumlin administration says it won’t support the bill.

Health Commissioner Harry Chen says his department can make solid progress on the issue without engaging in another legislative battle.

Last year, the exemption removal from the state’s mandatory childhood immunization law was one of the most contentious debates of the session.

Rep. George Till has introduced a similar bill that would remove philosophical and religious exemptions for pertussis vaccinations. He points to last year’s outbreak of 645 pertussis cases.

New Hampshire Fish and Game says some lake ice unsafe

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is warning that some lakes and ponds that traditionally have been safe for ice fishing and other outdoor recreation are not safe this year.

Officials are advising people to use extreme caution and check the ice thickness for themselves before going onto any frozen body of water.

The department says warm temperatures and high winds have affected ice formation, particularly on the state’s bigger lakes.

Officials say aerial photographs show ice conditions on some parts of Lake Winnipesaukee are unsafe, including an area of open water near Welch Island.

Fish and Game Lt. James Goss says people are advised not to drive vehicles onto the ice because of the unpredictable conditions.

New Hampshire House passes vehicle registration bad debt bill

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire’s House has passed a bill that would allow the state to suspend a person’s ability to register vehicles if the person has bounced a check in payment to register a vehicle.

The suspension would end when the person clears the bad check.

Current law allows the state to suspend the specific registration paid for with the bad check, but it does not stop the person from registering a different vehicle. Supporters said the bill closes the loophole.

The House sent the bill without debate to the Senate on Wednesday.

Group backs 3-part gun-safety
bill in Maine

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- A coalition created in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre is supporting legislation to prevent gun violence and promote gun safety in Maine.

The Coalition for a Safer Maine told a State House news conference Wednesday it’s supporting a bill sponsored by Democratic Rep. Mark Dion of Portland, the former Cumberland County sheriff.

Dion said his bill has three parts: universal background checks, a ban on large magazines, and limits on access to firearms by people adjudicated to be mentally ill.

Speaking in support were Robert McAfee, former president of the American Medical Association; hunter and gun owner Bruce Holmes of Manchester, South Portland Police Chief Ed Googins, and former Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert.

Some lawmakers, including House Republican leader Ken Fredette, urge judicious review of the proposal.


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