John Dillon

News Director

A veteran Vermont reporter, John joined VPR in 2001. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier. John was honored with two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards in 2007 for his reporting on VPR. He was the lead reporter for a VPR series on climate change that in 2008 won a national Edward R. Murrow award for continuing coverage. In 2009, John's coverage of an asbestos mine in northern Vermont was recognized with a regional investigative reporting award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association.

 

Ways to Connect

The Vermont House is expected to advance today a bill that allows those who may be in this country illegally to apply for the right to drive.

The bill would create what are described as drivers’ authorization cards, allowing the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue IDs that would look different from a regular state license.

VPR/Kirk Carapezza

After just raising the gas tax, lawmakers are also looking at whether consumers are getting gouged at the pump.

The focus now is on a bill to give the attorney general’s office the ability to track price data to see if companies are manipulating the market.

Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington, sponsored the bill. He wants to know if gas distributors in Chittenden County and Northwestern Vermont have used their market clout to keep prices high.

Lawmakers and Gov. Peter Shumlin have very different views about how taxes affect the economy.

The governor remains adamantly opposed to the tax bills passed by both the House and Senate. He underscored his resistance again at his weekly news conference Thursday.

“It’s always tougher for this Legislature to take existing money and spend it more wisely, than it is to turn to taxpayers and say, ‘Hey, we’re just going to dig into your pockets for more loot,’” he said.

The Vermont House has approved a bill that allows terminally ill patients to end their lives with doctor-prescribed drugs.

The final vote Wednesday was 81-64.

The end of life bill approved by the House is vastly different from the one passed by the Senate.  The focus now shifts to a reaching a deal that would avoid deadlock at the end of the legislative session.

The House debate stretched on for hours, but the end of life bill cleared numerous attempts to weaken it or delay it.

AP/Toby Talbot

The Vermont House is expected to give final approval to a bill that would allow Vermont doctors to prescribe lethal medication to terminally ill patients who request it.

The likely final passage of the bill sets up a clash with the state Senate, which passed a different proposal.

Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester, the lead sponsor of the bill, said the bill, which is modeled after a law in Oregon, gives patients a choice to end their pain and suffering.

Jason R. Henske / AP

Federal regulators say they’re confident the public is not in danger from the tons of radioactive spent fuel stored in an above-ground pool at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

The comments by Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials came after a nuclear critic told Vermont lawmakers that the fuel rods should be moved because of the potential threat.

The NRC releases an annual safety report card on Vermont Yankee. The agency says Yankee’s grades this year were good.

Jason R. Henske / AP

A nuclear engineer is warning the Legislature that Vermont Yankee could close before its federal license expires and leave the state with a huge clean-up bill.

But that testimony was disputed by another nuclear expert who said the federal government would step in to help the state.

The House Natural Resources and Energy Committee is considering a bill to require Vermont Yankee to reserve $40 million to restore the Vernon site to its pre-industrial condition.

Entergy Vermont Yankee has sued the state again in federal court, claiming the state has delayed approval of a back-up emergency generator.

Entergy has brought a familiar claim to the latest court action. It says federal law trumps state law on issues of safety.

In 2012, Entergy won a similar federal preemption case in a suit that challenged two Vermont laws that required legislative approval to operate the plant after its state license expired.

The Vermont House this morning approved a compromise transportation bill that will raise gas and diesel taxes on May 1.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Pat Brennan, R-Colchester, said the bill strikes a middle ground between the House and Senate versions.

“With a little back and forth I think we’ve come to a place where we can actually make this tax package a little more palatable, if that’s possible,” he said.

Toby Talbot / AP/file

Legislation that began with a proposed moratorium on wind development has been whittled down to a legislative review of how all electric generation projects are sited.

The vote in the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee to approve the much-reduced bill was unanimous. And both sides in the fight over ridgeline wind development say they’re happy with the outcome.

Despite the bill’s brevity, Committee Chairman Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier, said the extensive discussion led to a meaningful outcome.

Deputy state’s attorneys would be allowed to join a public employees union under a bill advanced today by the Vermont Senate.

The bill was sponsored by Chittenden Democrat Philip Baruth. He told senators that the legislation covers 101 employees, including the deputy prosecutors and victims’ advocates.

Officials from Vermont’s largest banks are speaking out against a Shumlin Administration tax proposal.

The bankers warn that a proposed hike in the bank franchise tax could slow down lending or lead to possible lay-offs.

The tax plan was put on the table by Gov. Peter Shumlin as he tries to strike a compromise with the Legislature to fund state government without raising broad-based taxes. Administration officials last week proposed a hike in the franchise tax paid by the state’s five largest banks.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The U.S. Senate on Monday began work on immigration reform with a focus on farm workers.

Sen. Patrick Leahy chairs the Judiciary Committee. He called a witness from Vermont to make the case that farmers need access to foreign workers to harvest crops and milk cows.

VPR/John Dillon

Lawmakers are reacting to the stun gun death of a Thetford man last year with legislation that would restrict police use of the electronic weapons.

Sponsors of the bill say they are also want to improve police training, especially in dealing with people undergoing a mental health crisis

Macadam Mason was 39 when he died last June. His encounter with police came after he had called a hospital threatening to harm himself or others. After a brief standoff, a state police officer shot him in the chest with a stun gun after Mason refused orders to lie on the ground.

VPR/John Dillon

A former U.S. Department of Energy official has warned lawmakers that spent nuclear fuel stored in a waste pool at Vermont Yankee poses an unacceptable risk.

The Statehouse testimony came as some lawmakers want to impose a new tax on radioactive waste at the Vernon reactor.

Robert Alvarez worked at the Department of Energy in the 1990s as a senior policy advisor. He’s now a scholar at the Institute of Policy Studies in Washington.

Legislation aimed at protecting water quality by controlling development along lakes and ponds will likely be delayed for a year.

The bill has already passed the House. But Senate leaders want to postpone passage so lawmakers can spend the summer on public education efforts.

The Senate Natural Resources Committee spent part of the morning Wednesday hearing from officials in New Hampshire and Maine, which enacted lakeshore protections decades ago.

The mother of a Thetford man killed last June by a state police officer firing a stun gun said her son would be alive today if a mental health counselor had been called to the confrontation.

Rhonda Taylor told lawmakers at a hearing last night that 39-year-old Macadam Mason suffered from a seizure disorder and likely was unable to comply with a trooper's order that he lie on the ground.

John Dillon / VPR

As Vermont confronts an epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse, an old concept in recovery is getting new attention.

The idea is that people who have struggled with their own demons of addiction can provide the best advice and insight for those just starting down the road to recovery.

It’s called peer support. New research has measured the success – and the savings to the state budget – from these programs.

State regulators have allowed almost three dozen groups and organizations to take part in the review of a proposed natural gas pipeline through Addison County.

Vermont Gas Systems needs approval from the Public Service Board to extend a pipeline south to Middlebury and then west to Ticonderoga, N.Y.

The board recently admitted multiple parties into the case, which means they can present testimony and cross examine witnesses. The interveners include the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, the gas company’s main competitors.

A pipeline company needs a state Act 250 land use permit if it wants to ship tar sands oil through northern Vermont, a district environmental coordinator has ruled.

In an eight page decision, District 7 Environmental Coordinator Kirsten Sultan said the land use law applies because reversing the flow of the pipeline to carry the heavy crude would be a substantial change to the existing development.

Environmentalists had called for Act 250 review of the potential tar sands project. Jim Murphy, a senior counsel for the National Wildlife Federation, hailed the ruling.

Pages