February 25, 2005 – News at a glance

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Seniors compete in masters’ downhill skiing
Picture a ski racer hurling down a slalom course with arms out front, body tucked and skis scraping against icy snow. Did you imagine gray hair under the helmet or arthritic knees over the skis? You could have, because older racers are still competing in the New England Masters’ Racing Program. (VPR)

Attorney General’s office backs identity theft laws
The issue of identity theft came up in the Statehouse on Thursday as lawmakers discussed how to react to a massive breach of consumer financial data. The ChoicePoint credit reporting agency says 111 Vermonters are among the thousands of people whose information was distributed to scam artists. The Attorney General’s office says Vermont law should require companies like ChoicePoint to tell consumers if their personal data was stolen or compromised. (VPR)

Bill would give more Guard benefits
Several bills have been introduced at the Statehouse to provide additional benefits for members of the Vermont National Guard. Under one bill, the state would pay the premium on a $250,000 life insurance policy for all Guard members who have been activated in the past few years. (VPR)

Senate committee backs Charles Smith’s nomination
A committee of the Vermont Senate has recommended the confirmation of Charles Smith as secretary of administration. The Government Operations Committee’s vote came after a morning hearing in which senators directed their frustration about the administration shakeup at Smith. (AP)

Hospitals’ association health care plan
The state’s hospitals presented their plan on Thursday to help reform the state health care system. A first step is an increase in a broad-based tax, such as the state income or sales tax, to buy the state five years’ time for stabilizing the Medicaid public health insurance system. (AP)

Verizon, state near settlement on fines
Vermont’s dominant local phone company will make customer refunds and network upgrades if a proposed agreement with state regulators wins final approval. The agreement settles $8 million in penalties the Department of Public Service issued against Verizon Vermont for service quality shortcomings in 2003. (AP)

Connecticut civil unions
Vermont gay rights advocates say marriage rights for homosexuals may be a better choice for Connecticut than civil unions. The civil unions system being considered in Connecticut would extend all rights and a benefits of marriage to gay and lesbians. But Beth Robinson, one of the attorneys who argued on behalf of same-sex couples that resulted in Vermont recognizing civil unions, says the system sends a message that same sex couples aren’t equal. (AP)

Business tax credits
The chairman of the Senate’s Economic Development Committee is calling for a moratorium on a program that provides tax credits to businesses that promise to create new jobs. Senator Vincent Illuzzi says a lack of adequate controls on the Vermont Economic Progress Council program means companies have received millions of dollars in tax credits despite reducing employment. (AP)

Statewide smoking ban
Some bar owners say a statewide smoking ban in bars should include private clubs. Others say any ban might put them out of business. They testified before two House committees last night on a proposal to ban smoking statewide. The dozen or so others who testified were in favor of prohibiting smoking in both bars and clubs. (AP)

Judicial retention votes
The Legislature’s judicial retention committee has voted to recommend that four justices of the Vermont Supreme Court be given another six years on the bench. The committee voted in favor of Chief Justice Paul Reiber and Associate Justices Denise Johnson and Marilyn Skoglund unanimously. Justice John Dooley the third won the committee’s recommendation in a seven-to-one vote. (AP)

Senator Canns remembered
The late state Senator Julius Canns is being remembered as a nice man, a working-class conservative and a friend to the Abenaki people. Some 250 people gathered for Canns’ funeral yesterday in the Northeast Kingdom town of Waterford, four days after he died of cancer on his 82nd birthday. Senator Vincent Illuzzi said Canns was a self-made businessman and was never a country-club Republican, but kept his sympathies with the working class. Governor Jim Douglas called Canns a man who cared deeply about local control of community affairs. (AP)

Rockingham renovations
Town officials in Rockingham are urging voters to approve a $2.85 million bond issue to renovate the historic Town Hall and attached movie theater. Development director Richard Ewald says the project will be a great shot in the arm for a community that is working to rejuvenate its downtown. He also says it would attract visitors to the historic village center of Bellows Falls and promote the town’s growing creative economy. Restoration of the theater began last year and would continue with some of the new bond money, while the rest would go toward fixing up the town hall. (AP)

UVM men’s basketball
The University of Vermont men’s basketball team has clinched its first-ever outright America East regular season championship with its win over the University of Maryland-Baltimore County last night. UMBC led for much of the way, but senior Taylor Coppenrath – playing his last home game Thursday night – led the Catamounts’ comeback, scoring 18 of his 30 points in the second half. Vermont took the lead with six minutes to go and held on for a 66-to-61 victory. The emotion-packed game was also the last for standout T.J. Sorrentine and two other seniors, and for retiring Coach Tom Brennan. (AP)

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