March 7, 2005 – News at a glance

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Teen driving deaths down after new license rules

According to a new report, Vermont has one of the lowest death rates for teen drivers in the country. This represents a significant change from several years ago. Vermont Highway safety officials say the state’s new graduated license law is a big reason why the trend has changed and they want to expand the law. (VPR)

Then and Now: Gas lamps light the Statehouse
Inside the Statehouse, the Vermont story can be seen and heard in the people, the laws that are passed, and the many artifacts that have been collected there. Today in our series “Then and Now,” curator David Schutz tells how frugality was behind the preservation of gas lamps that are now a national treasure. (VPR)

Douglas says Medicaid in more trouble than Social Security
Governor Jim Douglas says he supports President Bush’s plan to create private investment accounts within the Social Security system. But Douglas says he considers reforming the Medicaid program to be a more pressing issue. (VPR)

Health insurance reform
A Vermont lawmaker wants his colleagues to move faster on reforms to the state’s health insurance system. Democratic Representative John Tracy of Burlington says he’ll ask the House Health Care Committee to meet five days a week as they work to craft new legislation for this spring. (AP)

Medicaid deficit
The projected $80 million deficit in Vermont’s Medicaid spending isn’t expected to be solved soon. Governor Jim Douglas says he’s optimistic he can reach an agreement with the federal government but not before lawmakers tackle the budget for next year. (AP)

Public Service Department lawyer appointed
The state agency that represents the public in utility matters has a new top lawyer. Sara Hofmann has been appointed to the job of director of public advocacy. Hofmann has been with the department since 1996, and has represented it in numerous utility cases over the years. (AP)

Sugaring season has late start
Maple syrup producers are sweating the recent cold temperatures that have frozen Vermont’s sugarbushes. Sugarmakers say the January-like temperatures mean the maple season is off to a late start. Town meeting season usually signals that change in weather when warmer afternoons help start the sap flowing. (AP)

Community block grants
President Bush’s plan to eliminate community development block grants has drawn the ire of Vermont U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy. Leahy has been joined by more than 50 other senators in the effort to save the block grants. (AP)

Fletcher Allen community meeting
Vermont’s largest hospital is seeking public comment this week on its quality of care. Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington holds a public forum on Tuesday evening, seeking public comments on its recent hospital community report. (AP)

Bennington retirement center planned
Leaders of Southwestern Vermont Health Care want to build a retirement village on the medical center’s Bennington campus. The project still is at the conceptual stage and the hospital’s board hasn’t considered it. But a meeting is planned with environmental officials next week to figure out if there’s a way to address wetlands issues that have stymied the project in the past. (AP)

Brattleboro foreign trade zone
Business and community leaders in Brattleboro are asking the U.S. Department of Commerce to create a foreign trade zone in the southeastern Vermont town. Commerce officials were in Brattleboro this past week to talk to local officials about their application to designate 333 acres in the northern part of town as a foreign trade zone. Town Manager Jerry Remillard says the designation would help local businesses grow and generate new jobs. (AP)

Quebec earthquake
A moderate earthquake shook Quebec on Sunday and registered as far south as Boston. Authorities say there were no immediate reports of injuries or damages but some people were jolted awake. (AP)

Soldiers deployed
Thirty-five new Vermont Army National Guardsmen are on the first leg of their journey to Iraq. They left this weekend to join other Vermont Guardsmen training at Camp Shelby. The soldiers expect to leave for Iraq this summer. (AP)

UVM men’s basketball
The University of Vermont men’s basketball team is coming home for one more home game. The Catamounts qualified for the championship game of the America East Conference. That will be played at Patrick Gymnasium on Saturday to determine not just the league champs but also a trip to the NCAA championship tournament. (AP)

On campus housing at Champlain College
Champlain College plans to build a new dormitory and renovate an existing building into student housing. The project is expected to create 88 new beds and cost $3.7 million. The rooms would not be used to expand the college’s student body. Officials say the goal is to create more living space on campus. (AP)

Bacterial meningitis suspected
A Vermont student at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, is hospitalized with a suspected case of bacterial meningitis. Wesleyan says Tom Cornish, a senior at the private liberal arts school, is in stable condition. Officials are still waiting for test results to confirm the diagnosis. The university warned students and staff that the bacterial meningitis may be resistant to a vaccine that all students were required to receive. It also asked anyone who had contact with Cornish since February 27 to call the university health center. (AP)

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