December 21, 2004 – News at a glance

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Amtrak shortfall may impact Vermont rail service
Congress has approved a budget for Amtrak next year that is considerably less than the amount the rail corporation says it needs to operate. Amtrak says it’s losing more than $630 million annually. State officials say it’s too early to tell what affect the shortfall will have on service to Vermont. And they say Amtrak’s claim that ridership on train service to Vermont is down is misleading. (VPR)

Tax Department proposes centralized Grand List
The Vermont Tax Department wants a new law that creates a centralized electronic database of all property in the state. It also wants the Legislature to make the information available to the public and to private businesses. (VPR)

Judges reject request for formal hearings on Vermont Yankee
A panel of judges for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has rejected the state’s request to hold formal hearings on Vermont Yankee’s plans to increase power. But a lawyer for the state says the ruling will still allow the state to examine safety questions posed by the power increase. (VPR)

New Legislature has more diversity
Vermont’s Legislature will look a little more like the population it represents when it convenes next month. The House and Senate still will be dominated by white men. But the new class of lawmakers elected last month is more diverse than the one that’s departing. (AP)

Affordable housing
Rent for a typical one- or two-bedroom apartment is unaffordable for low wage-earners in Vermont, according to a national housing study. National Low Income Housing Coalition says a minimum hourly wage of $13.42 is needed in Vermont to afford the average rent. (AP)

Franklin County towns compare police services
Residents of three Franklin County towns are being wooed both by state police and the sheriff’s department as they decide what kind of police protection they want. There have been discussions among Enosburg, Richford and Montgomery about hiring the county sheriff’s office to provide 24-hour coverage. (AP)

War crimes law
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is helping track down war criminals. On Friday President Bush signed legislation, co-sponsored by Leahy, that gives the Justice Department expanded powers to track down and deport aliens who were engaged in war crimes in their home countries. (AP)

UVM housing and enrollment
University of Vermont officials promise they’ll work with Burlington officials as they move toward increasing enrollment by 1,200 students over the next five years. President Daniel Fogel spoke to the Burlington City Council Monday night. He says the university plans a substantial increase in on-campus housing as enrollment expands. (AP)

Burlington YMCA relocation
Burlington city councilors have approved the relocation of the YMCA to a former electric generating plant on the Lake Champlain waterfront. But voters will have the final say on the project. The City Council voted unanimously to support the move of the Y to the vacant Moran plant on the waterfront. But it also authorized an advisory vote on Town Meeting Day. (AP)

Bank robbery
There has been a robbery at a South Burlington branch of the Merchants Bank. The Shelburne Road bank branch was robbed late Monday afternoon. South Burlington police say the robbers appear to have been two men, reportedly driving a red Honda Civic. (AP)

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