February 20, 2004 – News at a glance

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Court rules on IBM’s retirement plan
Vermonters who spearheaded the opposition to changes in IBM’s retirement plan are pleased with a court ruling calling on the company to compensate employees affected by the plan. They say the decision is significant for workers at other companies. (VPR)

Streamline permit process
Legislative leaders have reached an agreement that would streamline the environmental permit process. The deal between the House and Senate ends a year-long stalemate on an issue that is a top priority for Governor Jim Douglas. (VPR)

State Senate approves naturopathic coverage
The Vermont Senate has given its strong approval to legislation that requires health insurance companies to provide coverage for naturopathic physicians who offer “medically necessary” services to their patients. The final vote on the bill was 25 to 2. (VPR)

Delivery of mental health services to be re-assessed
Human Services Secretary Charles Smith says the state needs to re-assess its system of delivering community mental health services. (VPR)

Dean’s campaign funds tallied
A final tally by Howard Dean’s presidential campaign shows he raised $50.3 million. (AP)

State’s ranking of women in top positions drops
Vermont has seen a big drop in the number of women in top positions in state government. In 1999 Vermont ranked first in the nation in the number of women in top positions; two years later Vermont’s raking slipped to fourth. Now the state ranks 34th. (AP)

Interview: Backyard bird count
The seventh annual Great Backyard Bird Count wrapped up earlier this week – a nationwide effort that encourages people to act as “citizen scientists” by gathering important information to aid bird conservation efforts. Mitch Wertlieb talks with Wally Elton, President of the Ascutney Mount Audubon Society about some of the data that’s been collected this year. (VPR)

Fish and Wildlife budget deficit
Some Vermont lawmakers want state Fish and Wildlife officials to explain a growing deficit in the department. The House Appropriations Committee grilled Natural Resources Secretary Elizabeth McLain on the department’s revenues and expenditures on Thursday. (AP)

Municipal charter change
Governor Jim Douglas says the Vermont Legislature should not block an effort by the city of Burlington to change its charter to give renters more time when being evicted. Douglas says the tradition is to let municipalities decide for themselves. (AP)

Kerry to open Vermont office
Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry is planning to open a campaign office in Burlington. A Kerry spokesman says the office will be open through Vermont’s March 2 Democratic primary. (AP)

Vermont presidential primary
Howard Dean’s home state of Vermont may be his best chance to end his winless streak in primaries and caucuses. The former governor’s name is still on the ballot for Vermont’s March 2 Democratic presidential primary. (AP)

Music label class action suit
Thousands of Vermonters who took part in a class action lawsuit against over a dozen music labels will soon have a few more dollars in their wallets. A recent settlement with the labels means that some 8,000 Vermont consumers will get about $14 in restitution within the next few days. (AP)

Mars lecture in Derby
Students in Derby are dreaming of stars and Mars, thanks to a recent visit by two NASA scientists. Quechee native Jim Garvin and Alphonso Diaz talked to students about the red planet and space exploration during a visit to North Country Junior High School earlier this week. (AP)

Hives outbreak
Officials at H.O. Wheeler Elementary School in Burlington are trying to determine what caused an outbreak of hives on Thursday in a first grade classroom. The sudden outbreak prompted the teacher to take the students to the library. (AP)

Kimmick officially arrested
The Vermont man named as the prime suspect in the murder of his ex-wife has been arrested by the FBI. Thirty-five-year-old William Kimmick was arrested on Thursday in the U.S. territory of Guam on a federal charge of illegally fleeing to avoid prosecution. (AP)

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