January 15, 2003 – News at a glance

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Vermont Supreme Court Justice retires
Associate Justice James Morse will leave the Vermont Supreme Court to become commissioner of the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. Morse isn’t commenting, except to say he’ll have more to say Thursday, when Governor Jim Douglas is to hold a news conference at which more appointments are expected. Morse will replace William Young at SRS; Young resigned last week after 18 years on the job. Morse’s departure from the court will give Douglas his first opportunity to appoint a Supreme Court justice. (AP)

UVM enrollment
University of Vermont President Daniel Fogel says increasing the number of students is one way to hold the line on tuition increases. UVM is among the most expensive public universities in the country for in-state students. (VPR)

Alcohol tax proposed
Governor Jim Douglas says he will not support a plan to raise the state’s alcohol tax to pay for new drug treatment and prevention programs. Senate Health and Welfare chairman Jim Leddy says the tax increase is absolutely needed if Vermont is going to make a serious effort to reduce the use of heroin in the next few years. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

State prescription costs
There’s a new effort to control the price of prescription drugs. The National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices says it plans to establish a non-profit company to manage prescription drug plans in nine states, including Vermont. (VPR)

Economic recovery consumer driven
The Legislature’s top economist told key lawmakers Tuesday afternoon that it’s unlikely that the Vermont economy is going to show much of a rebound over the next 18 months. (VPR)

Dean’s records partly sealed
Many of the records from the 11 years Howard Dean was governor of Vermont will be kept secret, at least for now. Shortly before he left the governor’s job, Dean negotiated a deal that seals his sensitive papers for 10 years. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

FAHC governance
Vermont’s troubled Fletcher Allen Health Care is looking for changes in its governing structure. The board of the Burlington hospital Tuesday appointed a committee of seven trustees and one state legislator – Senator James Leddy, (D) Chittenden County – to examine that structure and see what changes are needed. Interim Fletcher Allen CEO Edwin Colodny says the hospital’s massive expansion is vital to Vermont’s economic health. The hospital is currently under state and federal investigation for its expansion, known as the Renaissance project. (AP)

Act 250 reform discussion
Experts on Vermont’s development permitting process are slated to gather for a panel discussion at the Statehouse Thursday. The session has been organized by the Ethan Allen Institute, a free-market-oriented think tank based in Kirby. The panel meets at 12:15 Thursday in Room 10 of the Statehouse. (AP)

Burlington airport record
Vermont’s largest airport is reporting that last year was its busiest one on record. More than 550,000 passengers boarded planes in 2002. Burlington International Airport Director J.J. Hamilton says December’s high volume helped break the record. (AP)

King birthday events
Vermont activists are planning to celebrate Martin Luther King Junior’s upcoming birthday with calls for international peace and social justice. They start with a midday march to the Statehouse Wednesday, and a candlelight vigil later that day in Montpelier, from 4:30-6:00 p.m. (AP)

Dean campaign trail
Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean is playing up the fact that he’s the only Democratic candidate for president who is not in the U.S. House or Senate. At the National Press Club Tuesday Dean was harshly critical of President Bush on tax cuts, education and foreign policy. Dean is competing against a field that includes Senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and John Kerry of Massachusetts. It’s been nearly 150 years since three New Englanders seriously vied for the Democratic presidential nomination. (AP)

State discrimination suit settled
A Barre man has settled an employment discrimination lawsuit against the state Vermont, in which he claimed he was racially harassed. Twenty-year-old Tyler Johnson sued last year, alleging that he was the subject of racial jokes and epithets while working at a Montpelier boiler plant. Johnson claimed he was fired because he complained to his supervisor about the racially derogatory comments. State officials say the supervisor involved no longer works for the state. (AP)

IBM patents
The Essex Junction IBM plant is playing a big role in helping make the company the world’s leading producer of U.S. patents. The Vermont plant generated 13% of the company’s patents last year. The Essex Junction plant has 18 inventors who have earned more than 600 patents. (AP)

Low-income heating assistance
Vermonters getting help with their heating bills are having trouble with rising fuel costs and colder temperatures. Advocates told a state legislative committee today that many people who receive assistance from a federal program already have used up their aid this winter. More than 18,000 Vermont families will receive some kind of help this winter through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. (AP)

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