January 17, 2003 – News at a glance

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Interview: SRS commissioner
VPR’s Steve Delaney talks with James Morse, former Supreme Court justice and incoming commissioner of Social and Rehabilitative Services. (Listen to the interview online.) (VPR)

Dairy hearing
The dismal state of the Vermont dairy industry took center stage Thursday night at the Vermont Legislature. An overflow crowd packed a joint hearing of the House and Senate Agriculture committees. (VPR)

Medicaid cuts
A coalition of consumer and health care groups warned on Thursday that cuts to the state’s Medicaid program would be devastating for many Vermonters. The group also argued that the cuts would hurt the state economy. (VPR)

School choice study
Education Commissioner Ray McNulty says a new report shows that few people have taken advantage of limited school choice in Vermont. This is the first academic year that some degree of school choice has been offered. (VPR)

Justice Morse to become SRS chief
Vermont Supreme Court Justice James Morse says he’s resigning his seat to become the next SRS commissioner because he’s accomplished his goals on the bench. And he says, he hopes to have a direct impact on the state’s juvenile justice system. (VPR)

New environmental commissioner
Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll make economic development a top priority throughout state government. That was the message Thursday as the governor picked former Rutland Mayor Jeffrey Wennberg to run the state’s department of environmental conservation. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Douglas administration appointees
The newly seated Douglas administration is appointing new commissioners and secretaries to head up the departments and agencies of state government. Review the full list of appointees and hear the VPR interviews with top cabinet officers. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Women appointees
A prominent Vermont lawmaker is criticizing Governor Jim Douglas for not finding enough fresh female faces for top state jobs. State Senator Susan Bartlett, (D) Lamoille County, says most of the women appointed by Douglas are holdovers from the Dean administration. Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs says which governor originally appointed the women shouldn’t matter. He says Bartlett’s remarks are an insult to female public servants. (AP)

Dairy prices
Vermont dairy farmers could see higher prices for their milk beginning later this year. Dairy pricing economist Robert Wellington told state legislators last night that prices could turn as early as this summer. But Wellington says he’s still concerned about farmers’ ability to weather future milk price fluctuations. (AP)

Livable wage
It’s getting more expensive to get by in Vermont according to a study by the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office, which has been tracking a livable wage in Vermont. Among the findings were that a single person living alone would need a raise of 76 cents per hour from last year just to continue meeting basic needs like food, rent and transportation. (AP)

Road pattern considered
Rutland County transportation officials want the state to install a traffic roundabout at the intersection of U.S. Route 7 and Vermont Route 103. The Rutland Regional Transportation Council says a roundabout would save more lives than traffic signals. (AP)

Pownal sewage treatment
A plan to build a new sewage treatment plant in Pownal is getting some unlikely support. Town officials say they were pleasantly surprised that the Conservation Law Foundation and the Hoosic River Watershed Association both back the plan for the $17.8 million project. (AP)

Earnings report from Banknorth
Banknorth Group reported today that its earnings grew by 25% in the final quarter of 2002. Banknorth reported record net income of $77.1 million, or 52 cents a share, for the last quarter. CEO William Ryan says the company’s wide range of products allowed it to overcome declining interest rates and a weak stock market. Banknorth listed on the New York Stock Exchange in November 2002. (AP)

Medicaid quality care
Vermont hospitals provide the nation’s second best health care to Medicare patients. That’s according to a study published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study was based on whether a sample of Medicare patients received proper treatments for ailments such as a heart attack and stroke. New Hampshire ranked first and Maine ranked third. (AP)

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