Vermont

The decision by Gov. Peter Shumlin to abandon a single payer health care system is having an unexpected impact on Vermont's larger businesses. And lawmakers will now have to make decisions that Vermont's health care law never anticipated.

The village of Island Pond, in the Northeast Kingdom, is becoming the maple sugar capital of North America. An out-of-state company called Sweet Tree has bought about 7,000 acres and tapped 100,000 trees this year. But they say they don’t want to make the stuff you put on pancakes.

Vermont’s online health insurance exchange has been beset with problems since its launch a year and a half ago. In a surprise announcement on Friday, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Vermont will abandon Vermont Health Connect if it doesn’t start working properly soon.

ANGELA EVANCIE VPR/FILE

Longtime Washington County Sen. Bill Doyle says he'll propose a constitutional amendment to make it less likely that lawmakers will be asked to elect a governor in the future. Doyle says the results of this year's election show why his amendment is needed.  

Delaywaves via Creative Commons

Vermont's big experiment in creating a single-payer health care system is over, at least for now.

On Wednesday Governor Peter Shumlin announced he would effectively kill the plan to create a publicly-financed insurance system that was to be known as Green Mountain Health Care. "In my judgment," Shumlin said, "now is not the right time to ask our legislature to take the step of passing the financial plan for Green Mountain Health Care."

New federal science education standards adopted in Vermont require that students learn about climate change. So teachers are starting to create lesson plans with hands-on activities about weather patterns.

Some are getting that training deep in the woods of the Northeast Kingdom.

Rob Friesel via Flickr CC

The Vermont Attorney General's office has released a draft of the rules it is writing to govern the state's first-in-the-nation law to require the labeling of food made with genetically modified organisms.

The nine pages of rules released Wednesday lay out everything from definitions of "food" and "genetic engineering" to the required disclosures on packaging that will read "Produced with Genetic Engineering."

From gasoline to heating oil and propane, fuel prices in Vermont are lower than they were a year ago. The decline in prices will likely mean lower heating bills and less expensive fill-ups during the coming winter.

According to Chicago-based GasBuddy.com, a clearinghouse of real time information on gas prices across the country, on Tuesday the price for a gallon of regular unleaded varied in Vermont from a low of $3.18 in Rutland to a high of $3.69 in Derby.

Via Vermontbiz.com

An environmental group has lost its bid to intervene in a proposal by Vermont Gas Systems to build a pipeline between Colchester and Middlebury.

The Rutland Herald reports Public Service Board denied the Vermont Public Interest Research Group's request to intervene in a re-evaluation of the approval granted to Vermont Gas.

Over the past five years, law enforcement agencies in Vermont have invested more than $1 million in technology that gathers millions of data points every year about the whereabouts of vehicles across the state.

The Automated Plate Recognition Systems, or ALPRs, use high-speed cameras mounted on police cruisers that take photos of passing cars and relay them to an in-car computer for analysis. The technology keeps track of every license plate the cruiser passes and checks each against a “hot list” of vehicles, all in real time.

Via the Austine School

The Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is shutting down later this month.

The center announced in the spring that its Austine School would not be opening for the 2015 school year. Its board had hoped to keep some of its programs operating this year, and to reopen the school in two years, but at an emergency meeting last week voted to completely shut down both the school and the center.

Angela Evancie for VPR

The Beacon 10 Stirling – black, with a glowing blue light, and about the size of a large chest freezer – emits a constant low hum. And this one, in the basement of the Essex Resort & Spa, converts natural gas into electricity, enough electricity to power an average-sized home.

It’s just one of the technological innovations on offer at NRG Energy, a national company that is about to use Vermont as a testing ground for its products and services.

For the second time in three years, the Brattleboro Retreat faces a potential loss in federal funding because of a failed inspection. Despite the warnings, the state’s commissioner of mental health says he’s still confident that the retreat can provide quality care.

The federal warning comes after a suicide attempt at the Brattleboro Retreat in June which, after retreat staff notified the state, prompted a site visit of the facility.

Green Mountain Power broke ground in Rutland Tuesday on a new $10 million solar project that the utility says will not only generate clean energy, but also provide emergency back up power to parts of the city when needed.

Solar arrays are sprouting up all over Rutland County and some of the larger ones have generated a fair amount of controversy and criticism.

Visitors to the Justin Smith Morrill Homestead in Strafford are getting a rare chance to see American icons normally found only in the National Capitol. Morrill was the U.S. Senator famous for the legislation launching land grant colleges. He’s less well-known for another accomplishment: creating Statuary Hall, where each state is represented by two statues.

Imagine you’re fresh out of law school. Instead of going to work in a place where there are people to learn from and turn to for support, you’re a one-person firm on your own. 

A new program is helping young lawyers establish solo practices in hopes of helping both law school graduates and those who need legal services.

Flkr Creative Commons / KeithCarver

Experts estimate there are nearly 300 adult loons living on Vermont's lakes and ponds, up from just a couple dozen 30 years ago.

On Saturday, more than 200 volunteers spread out across Vermont for the annual loon survey.

The results of the survey are trickling in, but Eric Hanson of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and the coordinator of the Vermont Loon Conservation Project, says there are many more birds now than just a few years ago.

He says 15 years ago there were around 100 loons and in 1983 biologists counted only 29.

Gov. Peter Shumlin has agreed to a request from the White House to investigate whether the state could house some of the undocumented children now being detained in the southwestern part of the country.

The request from the White House is the first step in a very long process. 

The initial goal is to determine how much capacity each state has to house some of the nearly 60,000 children who have streamed across the border in the last few weeks.

Toby Talbot AP/File

The lessons of Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont have been incorporated into a new report designed to assist communities across the nation. 

The federal Environmental Protection Agency says the report offers a more comprehensive approach to mitigating the effects of flooding.

Last year at this time farm fields were soggy from rain. The bad weather hit dairy farms at a time when expenses outstripped income and it caused vegetable farmers to lose entire crops.  

It’s a different story this year: Milk prices are high and the weather is good.

In her job as Agronomy Outreach Professional with the University of Vermont Extension Service, Kirsten Workman visits farms throughout Addison and Chittenden counties. She remembers well the rains of last year.  

Amanda Loder / NHPR

The Currency is our ongoing look at economic and business news in New Hampshire. 

Angela Evancie VPR

The grocery market is changing in northern New England. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are each expanding their presence in the region.

What do those moves mean for the local food networks here? Well, recently Whole Foods put out a call for local growers in New Hampshire for the store it's opening in Nashua. But, can you find local food at the new Trader Joe's in South Burlington, Vermont? As Angela Evancie of Vermont Public Radio explains, the answer is maybe - maybe not.

A biomass plant has been proposed to occupy the site of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which is shutting down at the end of year.

The idea is in its infancy. The Brattleboro Reformer reports officials plan to organize a public forum to discuss the details.

The state has negotiated a detailed agreement with Entergy, owner of the nuclear plant, providing for millions of dollars for economic development and clean energy projects as well as a "timely decommissioning."

Woodley Wonderworks via Flickr CC

Gov. Peter Shumlin has signed into law a bill calling for every 3- and 4-year-old in Vermont to have access to at least 10 hours a week of publicly funded, pre-kindergarten education.

Backers of the bill say it will add about $10 million a year in costs to the state's Education Fund by 2021. But they say the measure will save much more in the long run because many of the children will be given a good enough educational start that special education and corrections costs will be reduced.

Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders says he'll introduce legislation after the Memorial Day break that will improve accountability at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  The comments from the Vermont independent and chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee follow allegations that some Veterans Administration hospitals have been providing substandard care to their patients and falsifying records.  Sanders says his legislation would make it easier for a secretary of veterans affairs to remove a senior executive due to poor job performance.

Have you ever wondered why there are toll booths on the interstates in New Hampshire and Maine and not in Vermont?

Under federal law, those states are allowed to impose tolls because they used a considerable amount of their own money to build their interstates. But states like Vermont, that used a lot of federal money to build the roads, aren’t allowed to charge tolls.

This could change soon because the White House is backing a plan to allow all states to charge an interstate toll if they want to. Congressman Peter Welch supports the change.

Charlotte Albright for VPR

Every three, four, and five-year-old  in Vermont will be eligible for state-subsidized preschool, under new legislation  that Governor Shumlin has promised to sign into law. Many school districts already offer early education programs, but they vary widely in structure and quality. So a lot of details have to be worked out as the state sews together what is now a patchwork of programs.  

The number of people who can obtain medical marijuana would increase under a bill that has now passed the Legislature and is on its way to the governor for his signature.

The bill also calls for a study to determine how much money the state could reap in new tax revenue if marijuana is legalized in the future.

Under Vermont’s current medical marijuana law, no more than 1,000 people can be registered to receive marijuana in total from the four dispensaries in the state. Those dispensaries are located in Burlington, Montpelier, Brattleboro and Brandon.

The owner of Santa’s land in Putney and the park’s caretaker appeared in Brattleboro District Court Tuesday. Lillian Billewicz  and Brian Deistler pled not guilty to charges of animal cruelty. Earlier this winter 16 fallow deer, a pot-bellied pig and a pheasant were found dead at the once-popular theme park.  Court documents say other animals were found in stalls with frozen water and insufficient hay. Now the park’s remaining animals are getting attention from some local residents who’ve been trying to feed them.

In the past few years, many states, including Vermont, have embarked on hundreds of road and bridge construction projects and most of the projects were paid for with a large amount of federal funds.

But there’s a problem: the Federal Highway Trust Fund is running out of money.

Read or listen to Bob Kinzel's report on VPR's website.

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