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Senate passes bill to end cash bail for nonviolent misdemeanors

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 5:14pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Today the Vermont Senate gave final approval to S.27, a bill that would prohibit the use of cash bail for nonviolent misdemeanor offenses. This year, the Vermont Department of Corrections reported that nearly 200 people were being held in custody pre-trial because they didn’t post bail. Several states and jurisdictions that have eliminated cash bail or have greatly limited its allowable use have seen higher rates of appearance in court. This bill would prohibit the imposition of cash bail in cases where the defendant has been charged with a misdemeanor and to require criminal justice stakeholders to develop recommendations to eliminate cash bail. It would also require the Department of Corrections (DOC) to report racial data on pretrial detainees, and require the Judiciary to establish and implement a system to notify those charged with a criminal offense of upcoming court hearings.

UnitedHealthcare agrees to extend in-network coverage to UVMHN patients for remainder of 2023

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 5:02pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The University of Vermont Health Network will remain in-network for UnitedHealthcare commercial insurance plans through the end of the 2023 calendar year as part of a recent agreement between the non-profit health system and one of the nation’s largest insurance carriers. UnitedHealthcare announced in February that it would let the UVMHN contract expire April 1. Their policy holders would then have to get treatment as out-of-network patients and pay higher rates or go to a different provider. UVMHN said it will take a financial hit because of the deal and it doubts that an agreement will be reached for 2024.

Goddard College staff union votes for strike authorization, no confidence in President Hocoy

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 4:34pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine A week ago, a super majority of Goddard College staff unanimously took a vote of no confidence in President Dan Hocoy’s leadership and a separate vote to authorize a strike. Staff from across the campus – from kitchen workers to financial advisors – participated in person and via Zoom to take part in this historic vote. At issue is the very mission of Goddard College, which is to enable “imaginative and responsible action in the world.” Faculty have included visionaries such as Murray Bookchin, who advocated for systems that were non-hierarchical and democratically controlled by all stakeholders. The College was founded in the 1930s to explicitly fight fascism and authoritarianism.

House passes family leave bill H.66, Scott sticks to own plan

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 4:01pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The House on Thursday evening gave preliminary approval to H.66, a bill that gives Vermonters up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave insurance with 90% pay and employment protection. The legislation provides leave for a variety of health conditions for both employees and their family, including but not limited to miscarriage, residential treatment for substance use disorder, childbirth, and child bonding. The House gave final approval Friday and sent it to the Senate. Governor Scott has put forth a voluntary family leave plan and voiced his opposition to H.66 as currently constructed. The second reading roll call vote, with several lawmakers absent, was 99-32, one vote shy of what would be needed for a veto override. Lawmakers passed a similar bill in January 2020, but ultimately failed to override Scott's subsequent veto.

House passes suicide prevention bill H230 to increase gun safety

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 3:38pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The House on Thursday passed the suicide prevention bill, H. 230. The legislation addresses the alarming increase in suicide rates in Vermont by creating mechanisms to provide a period of time and space from firearms for individuals experiencing suicidal impulses. The bill requires locked gun storage to prevent firearms from being accessed by children, creates a 72-hour purchase waiting period, and allows family and household members to petition the court for temporary gun removal under our state’s “red flag” laws. Following today’s vote, the bill will move to the Senate for further consideration. If enacted, Vermont will join a growing number of states that have implemented comprehensive suicide prevention plans. 

Man dies after two-car crash in Ripton

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 3:36pm -- tim

The Vermont State Police was informed on Thursday March 23, 2023, that the Operator of Vehicle #1, Peter Nichols, 77, of New Haven, Vermont, succumbed at the University of Vermont Medical Center. The investigation into this crash is ongoing. On Thursday afternoon, Troopers with the Vermont State Police assigned to the New Haven barracks were advised of a two car motor vehicle crash on VT RT 125 in the Town of Ripton, Vermont. Upon arrival, Troopers observed two vehicles with heavy damage at a position of uncontrolled rest in the east and west bound lanes of travel on VT RT 125. Initial investigation revealed that Vehicle One (V1) which was operated by Peter Nichols (77)  was traveling eastbound, and Vehicle Two which was operated by Bruce Perlow (46) was traveling westbound. As Vehicle One was traveling eastbound, it had crossed the centerline, striking vehicle Two head one.

Man dies in custody after arrest by Bennington police

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 3:29pm -- tim

The Vermont State Police is investigating the death of a man at the Bennington Police Department after he was arrested Thursday afternoon, March 23, 2023. Through preliminary investigation by VSP, there is no indication that Bennington police used physical force on the subject. He was one of three people taken into custody at about 3:50 pm as Bennington officers carried out a court-ordered search warrant related to a drug investigation at the Apple Valley Inn on US Route 7. The subject was taken to the Bennington Police Department and placed in a holding cell, where he was discovered unresponsive at about 4:40 pm. Members of the police department provided emergency medical care and called first responders, but lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful, and the man was pronounced dead at 5:19 pm at the police station.

Vermont House passes Community Resilience and Biodiversity Protection bill (H126) 

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 2:45pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont House of Representatives voted 108-36 Thursday to advance H.126, an act related to community resilience and biodiversity protection. The bill passed on a third reading Friday and now heads to the Senate for consideration. According to the US Forest Service, Vermont is losing approximately 12,000 acres of forestland per year to development, causing significant impacts to ecosystem health, habitat for wildlife species, the ecological viability of natural lands, and our working lands economy. H.126, referred to as the “30 x 30” bill, would elevate land conservation as a necessary strategy to promote healthy forests, habitat connectivity, biodiversity protection, outdoor recreation, sustainable forestry, public health and climate resilient communities. 

Welch announces $28.4 million USDA investment in rural Vermont health care facilities

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 2:08pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) today held a roundtable discussion on health care challenges in Vermont’s rural communities and announced new funding to support health care facilities in St Johnsbury and Waterbury. United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small and USDA Rural Development State Director Sarah Waring joined Welch to announce $28.4 million in USDA grants to Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) and Copley Hospital. The investments are expected to save more than 400 jobs and benefit more than 9,500 rural Vermonters. 

Balint calls out GOP for harmful 'Education' bill that threatens to defund schools 

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 1:53pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Representative Becca Balint (D-Vermont) on Thursday fought back against Republican attacks on students and families in her first Budget Committee hearing. Balint focused on education funding to ensure our schools and communities receive the funding they need to tackle our nation’s mental health crisis. She asked Director Shalanda Young what American families can expect in the President’s budget that will address how the federal government chooses to fund schools and support students. This follows the Republican Majority’s decision to advance a bill (HR5) that would insert the federal government between parents and schools and threatens trans youth.

Scotts announces $600K in municipal planning grant awards

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 1:38pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) today announced the support of 29 municipal planning projects totaling $598,997 dollars. Municipal Planning Grants support a range of projects around the state intended to stimulate economic development, grow housing opportunities, and ensure adequate public infrastructure. “Municipal Planning Grants help communities connect the dots by funding the tools and resources they use to plan ahead,” said Governor Scott. “From data gathering to outreach and design, planning is an essential component for infrastructure investments we need to make.”

Vermont’s unemployment rate fell to 2.8 percent in February

Fri, 03/24/2023 - 11:33am -- tim

by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine Today, the Vermont Department of Labor reported the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate had fallen one-tenth to 2.8% in February 2023. The rate has fallen the last two months, after the annual revision reset the 2022 data upwards. The revision in particular indicated more growth in the Labor Force than originally reported. The Labor Force is up 900 from January and up 5,090 from a year ago. The number of Employed also grew by 1,169 from January, while the number Unemployed fell by 269, indicating that all the major metrics showed improvement. The civilian labor force participation rate was 63.6 percent in February, an increase of two-tenths of one percentage point from the prior month. The comparable United States jobless rate was 3.6 percent, an increase of two-tenths of one percentage point from the revised January estimate. Vermont is tied for the 12th lowest rate in the nation. North and South Dakota are tied for the lowest at 2.1% and Nevada has the highest at 5.5%.