January 5, 2003 – News at a glance

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Interview: Vermont Yankee security
Howard Dean was criticized over the weekend for being inattentive to security issues at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Mitch Wertlieb talks with Captain William Sheets, of Vermont’s Homeland Security Unit. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.)

Health care community rating
Governor Jim Douglas plans to focus on a variety of health care issues during his State of the State address Tuesday afternoon. One of the plans is very controversial. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.)

State police vacancies
Governor Jim Douglas is going to ask returning lawmakers this year to fill another ten state police vacancies. Douglas made a campaign pledge to restore the state police to its full strength of 325 troopers. The force is about 30 troopers short. State police say they don’t have enough troopers to respond quickly to non-emergency calls. (AP)

Health care legislation
Democrats in the Vermont Legislature are hoping to shift the focus to health care when lawmakers’ work gets underway on Tuesday. Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate have joined forces on a program that would reduce drug prices. It would also open the state health insurance systems to small private companies that might want buy coverage through it, and expand a program for children to youths up to age 25. (AP)

Douglas jobs bill
Job creation will be Governor Jim Douglas’ top priority when the Legislature returns to the Statehouse. Douglas successfully pushed a jobs initiative through the Legislature last year. And he has already laid out his proposals for a second jobs package that will serve as a follow-up. (AP)

Electricity rates
Utility issues are expected to occupy a lot of time in the Legislature this year. Many leaders say Vermont’s high cost of electricity deters businesses from moving to the state. Lawmakers are also likely to face the issue of the pending sale of hydroelectric dams along the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers. (AP)

Dean stock sale
Howard Dean sold 15,000 in stock in five Vermont banks after becoming governor in 1991 and getting what he says was an “inside report” from the state banking regulator. The leading Democratic presidential contender says it became clear to him that he might have a potential conflict of interest if he continued to hold the stock. (AP)

Higher education donations to Dean
Howard Dean is earning higher marks, and twice as much money, from college professors than the other Democratic presidential candidates. The education industry gave more than $2.4 million to all presidential candidates in the first three quarters of the year. The nonpartisan group Center for Responsive Politics found that nearly $719,000 went to Dean. (AP)

Nuclear security report
Vermont Yankee officials and members of the state police Homeland Security Unit say a series of security lapses reported in a 2002 audit have been corrected. The unusual statement comes in the wake of an Associated Press report highlighting nearly a decade of security woes at the Vernon plant during former Governor Howard Dean’s administration. (AP)

Vermont soldier killed in Iraq
Another Vermont soldier has been reported killed in Iraq. The U-S Defense Department says 24-year-old Solomon Bangayan of Jay was killed Saturday in Baghdad when his convoy was ambushed while on patrol. Bangayan was an Army specialist who was assigned to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. (AP)

Missisquoi Bay Bridge
Work is expected to start in March on the $40 million Missisquoi Bay Bridge reconstruction project. Project Manager Dan Landry says the Vermont Agency of Transportation is going to advertise for bids from contractors this month. The new bridge between Swanton and Alburg will be 3,600 feet long and supported by 20 piers. It will be the largest span entirely within Vermont. (AP)

UVM firing upheld
The Vermont Labor Relations Board has upheld the firing of a University of Vermont police officer who detained a black woman while he was searching for a black man suspected of armed robbery. The board ruled last week that UVM was right to fire Matthew Sheehan after he held the woman at gunpoint a year ago. Police were searching for suspect in a dorm robbery. They never found him. (AP)

Charlotte man to stand trial
A District Court judge says a Charlotte man must face trial in Vermont for the drowning deaths of two children. George Dean Martin challenged whether the July 4, 2002, accident happened on the Vermont or New York sides of Lake Champlain. District Court Judge Helen Toor rejected Martin’s lawyer’s arguments that the capsizing of the boat happened outside Vermont jurisdiction, relying on satellite positioning readings taken by witnesses. (AP)

Hines released from State Hospital
Louis Hines, the longest-serving patient at the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury, is up for release. Hines was confined to the hospital after he beat a young woman to death with a pipe as she ate lunch in a park in Burlington 23 years ago. After the crime, he was diagnosed with mental illness. He was never charged with or convicted of any crime. He’s been at Vermont State Hospital ever since. (AP)

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