January 8, 2003 – News at a glance

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Interview: new ANR secretary
VPR’s Steve Delaney talks with Wibs McClain, the incoming secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources. (Listen to the interview online.) (VPR)

Vermont Yankee false alarms
The Brattleboro Select Board wants assurances there won’t be any more false alarms concerning the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. (VPR)

Woodworkers get Middlebury contract
Island Pond Woodworkers hopes to fill the void left when the Ethan Allen factory closed its doors 18 months ago. The first job for the new business will be to manufacture furniture for Middlebury College. Company officials say the contract with the college was key to the creation of the worker-owned business. It’s also part of a larger effort to revive the wood products industry in Vermont. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Governor Dean farewell address
Governor Howard Dean will deliver his farewell address to a joint meeting of the Legislature Wednesday afternoon and Dean says he plans to speak without a formal text. (VPR)

Douglas faces tough finances
Governor Howard Dean says it’s likely that the incoming administration of Governor-elect Jim Douglas will face tougher financial problems than originally projected. Dean says he has confidence that Douglas will be able to deal with this situation and Dean endorsed changes to some of the state’s health care programs as a way to reduce spending. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Peterson Dam to be removed
A power dam on the Lamoille River in Milton will be removed in 20 years under a settlement agreement announced Tuesday. Governor Howard Dean says the agreement with Central Vermont Public Service Corporation will improve the environment of the river and Lake Champlain. (Listen to the story online or read the transcript.) (VPR)

Bush economic plan
All three members of Vermont’s Congressional delegation say they strongly oppose President Bush’s plan to exempt stock dividends from the federal income tax. (VPR)

December state revenues
Vermont state revenues were stronger than expected in November. In the first six months of this fiscal year, the state has collected about $6 million more than was expected. (AP)

Government transition
Wednesday marks the beginning of a new era in Vermont politics. Governor Howard Dean will give his farewell address to the 2003 Legislature, which convenes at 10 a.m. Thursday Dean will leave office and be replaced by Republican Jim Douglas. The first order of business for the House and Senate will be to elect leaders. Republican House Speaker Walter Freed is being challenged by Democrat John Tracy. Over in the Senate, Democratic State Senator Peter Welch is expected to be elected president pro tempore. (AP)

Legislature convenes
All 180 lawmakers will be sworn in for their two-year terms as the first order of business Wednesday. The Statehouse is ready for them. The recording systems in the committee rooms have all been tested and lawmakers’ mailboxes have already been stuffed with a variety of documents. (AP)

Hinsdale large farm application
A family that wants to build a large dairy farm in Charlotte is now reconsidering that plan. Clark Hinsdale III says that decision is in the face of a lengthy permitting process and opposition from neighbors. Now the family is thinking about building two smaller barns instead – allowing them to go forward without a large-farm permit. The Hinsdales say they have no plans to withdraw their application for the large-farm permit. But if they receive the permit, the Hinsdales say they may no longer build the large farm. (AP)

Sanders’s FAHC task force
Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders is giving some suggestions to the board of trustees at the state’s largest hospital. Sanders has formed a task force to target perceived problems with the board governing Fletcher Allen Health Care. Sanders and former Vermont Governor Philip Hoff recently sent a letter to the hospital’s interim chief executive officer and several others detailing their recommendations. Fletcher Allen trustees say they’ll name a committee next week to consider proposed changes to how the board operates. The hospital is currently under state and federal investigation for its expansion, known as the Renaissance project. (AP)

Death penalty appeal
Federal prosecutors can now appeal a ruling that struck down the death penalty in the case of a man accused of killing a North Clarendon woman. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Vermont filed notice last October that it would appeal a ruling by U.S. District Judge William Sessions in the case of Donald Fell. Sessions had ruled that the way the death penalty is imposed is unconstitutional, but the Justice Department disagrees. Before the appeal could proceed, federal prosecutors needed permission from U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olsen. Now that that approval has been granted, the appeal is set to be heard by the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City. (AP)

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