Government & Politics

Job losses in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene were in many cases temporary, lasting only as long as it took businesses to repair damage from the flood.

The financial impact of those layoffs has been more lasting, but lawmakers may have found a way to soften the blow.

Senate Delays License Bill For Migrant Workers

Apr 3, 2013

The Vermont Senate is delaying action until next week on a bill allowing immigrant farm workers to become Vermont drivers.

The Senate was going to debate the measure this week. It was approved last week by the Transportation Committee by a vote of 4-1.

But now it's being sent to the Finance Committee for review because it contains a fee - which an immigrant would pay to get the special driving privilege card.

AP/Jeannie Nuss / Oil covers the ground around a slide in Mayflower, Ark., on April 1, 2013, days after a pipeline ruptured and spewed oil over

An oil spill in Arkansas may add urgency to Vermont legislation that would regulate oil pipelines.

Environmentalists point to similarities between the pipeline in Arkansas that ruptured and one in northern Vermont that could be used to ship tar sands oil.

The accident last week in Mayflower, AR spilled about 80,000 gallons of oil and forced the evacuation of 22 homes.

The 20-inch, underground line was used to carry tar sands oil from western Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.

The Senate Transportation committee is set to make a key change in the gas tax bill that was adopted by the House several weeks ago.

Lawmakers are eyeing the gas tax as a way to raise new revenue to allow the state to take full advantage of all federal matching money that's available.

The Transportation Fund has a major shortfall this year because the gas tax is levied on a per gallon basis nd sales have dropped more than 40 million gallons over the past 7 years.

AP/Toby Talbot

The House Transportation Committee is considering a bill that would explore why gasoline prices are higher in certain areas of Vermont.

Gas prices in the northwestern part of the state have been considerably higher than many other regions. The average disparity in prices in Chittenden County is about 22 cents.

Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington, is sponsoring a measure that would require distributors to provide data to the attorney general’s office.

Vt. Bills Target Distracted Driving

Apr 2, 2013
AP/Toby Talbot / A driver talks on the phone on Tuesday in Montpelier.

Vermont lawmakers are continuing their efforts to crack down on distracted driving, with bills that would boost the penalties for texting while driving and ban all hand-held electronic devices when driving through road construction zones.

Two House committees are studying those measures, while prospects for a proposed outright ban on using portable electronic devices while driving appear slim.

Vermonters already are banned from texting while driving and drivers under 18 are barred from using any portable electronic device.

Key members of the House are skeptical of a Senate bill that calls for a statewide study of the impact of renewable projects on Vermont’s environment.

Last week, after hours of often heated debate, the Senate passed a stripped-down measure of a bill that originally would have given towns more control in the state review of energy projects that are proposed for their communities.

Agency of Natural Resources / Map of Water Street in Jamaica, VT. The red area, the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), has a 1% annual chance of a flood; the

More than 100 Vermont families lost their homes in Tropical Storm Irene. At least six had houses that were destroyed by the flood, but were deemed ineligible for a FEMA buy-back program because of where they appear on FEMA's maps.

Property-owner Karin Hardy had completely renovated her 150-year-old house in Jamaica, exposing the original beams, painting historic colors and building a stone bench above the quiet Ball Mountain Brook. But the brook changed on August 28, 2011.

http://www.vpr.net/audio/news/regional_news/2013/04/Spot-0402apo River Maps_040113_Nancy Cohen.mp3

A bacterial disease spread by tick bites is getting attention this week in the Statehouse.

Lyme disease patients and their advocates are pushing for a bill that requires insurance companies to cover long-term antibiotic care for the debilitating illness.

The bill highlights a debate in the medical community about the most effective treatment, because it sanctions a medical practice that critics say is not recommended by state and federal agencies.

This year Senator Bill Doyle tabulated almost 14,000 surveys from all parts of the state, and by a margin of 56 to 33 percent, those responding to the Survey said they didn't want to increase the gas tax to pay for road and bridge repairs.

Doyle says he was surprised by these results.

"I will say that I knew it would go down but I didn't think it would go down 2 to 1, said Doyle. Most of us drive to work and when you drive to work you're using a lot of gasoline."

Senate To Consider Driver's Licenses For Migrant Workers

Apr 2, 2013

The Vermont Senate will soon consider allowing immigrant farm workers to get state driver's licenses.

The Senate Transportation Committee last week moved out a bill that would do just that by a vote of 4-to-1.

Vermont dairy farms employ an estimated 1,500 Mexican farm workers, many of whom are here illegally.

They say without drivers licenses, they are often isolated in rural areas.

The bill would allow them to get driver's licenses if they have proper documentation.

Kirk Carapezza / VPR

Vermont became the first state on Monday to publish the rates it would charge people who don't currently have health insurance to get coverage - a key step toward establishing the health exchanges that are central to the federal health care law known as Obamacare.

Under the proposed rates, the amount that individuals would pay every month would vary from $360 for the most basic package to more than $600 for the most comprehensive.

After a long week debating budgets, taxes and renewable energy siting policies, Senate and House lawmakers can take a breath as they return to their committees this week to discuss a wide range of topics.The House Judiciary Committee will continue to take testimony on a measure that would decriminalize the poss

Kirk Carapezza / VPR File Photo

Vermont, which continues to emerge as a national health care leader, released on Monday the amount it proposes to charge consumers for health insurance under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Under the proposed rates, the average cost for an individual would vary from $365.76 for the most basic package to $609.47 for the most comprehensive. Rates for family plans would be higher. People under certain income limits would get federal subsidies to pay for insurance.

Welch To Talk About Renewable Energy

Apr 1, 2013

Congressman Peter Welch is planning to announce legislation he says will make it easier to pay for renewable energy projects in Vermont and around the country.

Welch will talk about the proposal today with Vermont renewable energy companies at AllEarth Renewables in Williston.

Welch plans to tour the facility before the round-table discussion at 1 p.m.,which will include representatives from AllEarth, Darker Solar, Northern Power Systems, Encore Redevelopment and other companies.

Hundreds Protest Vermont Yankee

Apr 1, 2013

Hundreds of people who rallied in protest of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant over the weekend, and they say it's time for the 41-year-old reactor to shut down.

More than 500 people marched through downtown Brattleboro Saturday carrying banners and chanting shut it down. Organizers claim the plant, owned by Entergy, has been operating illegally.

The march came five days after the Vermont Supreme Court denied a petition from the anti-nuclear New England Coalition to shut down the plant.

Vt. To Post Health Care Rates

Apr 1, 2013

Vermont is poised to become the first state in the country to tell people without health insurance how much they can pay for coverage through the federal Affordable Care Act when it begins offering benefits next year.

The state starting today is going to post the proposed rates offered through the state's health care marketplace for various levels of coverage.

Andy Hyman of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says it's a big step.

Pages