Government & Politics

The House has unanimously approved a two-year capital construction bill that solidifies a commitment to rebuild the Waterbury state office complex devastated by Tropical Storm Irene.

The bill includes $173 million in spending, with close to $70 million set aside for Irene-related projects.

This is the second legislative session that lawmakers have crafted a two-year spending cycle for state construction projects. And a top priority remains repairing or replacing buildings damaged by the floodwaters of Irene.

Vermont’s attorney general wants a marijuana decriminalization bill moving though the House to allow people to grow one or two plants.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell says if the state doesn’t allow Vermonters to grow their own pot it will force them to buy marijuana illegally.

Political victories have been rather scarce for the Vermont Republican Party in the last several years. Brent Burns is hoping to turn that around. He's the new Political Director for the Vermont GOP. He just started the job on Tuesday. He spoke with VPR about what he expects from his new job. 

Governor Shumlin's plan to transfer $17 million from the state's Earned Income Tax Credit program to pay for his child care initiative is under fire in the Senate.

Shumlin is looking to the Senate to keep his plan alive because it was rejected by the House last month.

The EITC is a federal program and Vermont matches 32 percent of a household's federal credit. The program is designed primarily to assist low income working people with children.

Veterans Home Passes State Inspection

Apr 4, 2013

The Vermont Veterans Home has passed a state inspection and needs to pass one more to ensure it will keep receiving federal funds.

The home is on special focus status following a near-loss in funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last year. That funding accounts for most of the home's $20 million budget.

Administrator Melissa Jackson tells the Bennington Banner the inspectors from the Division of Licensing and Protection found one minor issue in Monday's inspection, an expired medication.

A group of doctors is telling Vermont lawmakers and the media that changes in how they are paid could harm medical ethics.

They're worried about the payment plan that might be implemented by the Green Mountain Care Board. Speaking at a news conference organized Wednesday by the group Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, Dr. Robert Emmons, a Burlington psychiatrist, said the way Vermont's health care overhaul is planned is not compatible with medical ethics.

One of the country's top medical journals is touting Vermont's health care reform effort as an example for the rest of the nation.

A study published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine says other states can learn some lessons from Vermont in rolling out health exchanges that are essential to the federal Affordable Care Act.

Doctor Laura Grubb at the University of Texas wrote the report. In a phone interview Wednesday, she said other states should follow Vermont administrators' lead and take matters into their own hands.

Patients living with Lyme disease crowded the Statehouse on Wednesday to tell their stories about years of misdiagnosis and chronic pain.

The patients and their advocates want legislation to protect doctors if they prescribe long-term antibiotic treatment contrary to current medical standards.

Lawmakers also learned that Lyme disease is just one of several tick-borne infections now sweeping through Vermont.

Shumlin Announces Release Of New Bird Atlas

Apr 3, 2013
AP File/Toby Talbot / Wild turkeys walk through the snow in Barre in this 2010 file photo. A new resource for understanding Vermont's bird populations

Governor Peter Shumlin helped mark the publication of a new book today that's a new resource for understanding Vermont's bird populations.

Second Atlas of Breeding Birds of Vermont, was produced with the help of 350 volunteers who donated thousands of hours compiling the information.

Shumlin says the atlas will help the state protect and build ecosystems where birds will thrive.

Now What? That's a fairly common question at select board and school board meetings this time of year, especially in down economy years.

What happens after municipal officials invest time, energy and money planning a project that the voters turn down at town meeting? Should they throw in the towel? Scale down the project and ask again? What about trying to do a better job explaining why the project is needed?

The momentum to reform Vermont’s earned income tax credit appeared to run out last week, but Governor Peter Shumlin continues to lobby a small group of state senators. He hopes to strike a deal on his proposal to subsidize child care by redirecting $17 million from the tax credit for poor working Vermonters.

A week after a key House committee narrowly rejected his plan, Shumlin has his work cut out for him in the Senate.

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.

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