Vermont Travel Destinations accepted into Vermont Attractions Association

first_imgMaple Grove Farms of Vermont in St. Johnsbury is the worldâ s oldest and largest maple candy factory, and largest packer of pure maple syrup in the US. Visit the Sugarhouse Maple Museum and learn about how to make maple syrup. Browse the Red Roof Gift Shop for candy samples, taste all grades of maple syrup, and stock up on Vermont made products. http://www.maplegrove.com(link is external)    Focusing on education as a component of the visitor experience, travel destinations accepted into membership offer unusual Vermont experiences in the areas of agricultural tourism, art, excursions, galleries, guided tours, history, museums, recreation, shopping, and specialty foods. Northshire Bookstore in Manchester is one of New England’s premier, award-winning bookstores. Find out why Stephen King called it “a special place” and Yankee magazine dubbed it “Best Bookstore in New England.”  Expert booksellers with a hand crafted selection and an old world ambiance make it easy to spend hours browsing. Kids of all ages will enjoy the children’s department. Beyond the best in books…gifts, stationery, games, toys and much more. http://www.northshire.com/(link is external) Vermont Chamber of Commerce. 4.24.2012. Members of VAA enjoy many benefits, including a presence on the website www.vtattractions.org(link is external), and on 1.15 million copies of theâ Official Vermont Road Map & Guide to Vermont Attractions,’which is widely distributed across the country and internationally as Vermontâ s highway map. As Vermont prepares for the busy summer tourism season ahead, the Vermont Attractions Association (VAA) welcomes six Vermont businesses as new members. Accepted to  VAA this year are: Chaffee Art Center, Rutland; Goodrichâ s Maple Farm, Cabot; Maple Grove Farms of Vermont, St. Johnsbury; Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center; Shackleton Thomas, Bridgewater; and Vermont Folk Rocker in Starksboro. VAA membership identifies businesses as excellent family destinations, with a proven ability to represent the best of Vermont while meeting high standards in visitor service. To browse VAA member destinations or for more information about VAA, visit www.vtattractions.org(link is external). Maps are available by the piece or by the carton free of charge; contact Karen Foote ([email protected](link sends e-mail)). ShackletonThomas in Bridgewater offers exquisite and world-renowned furniture and pottery made by hand, one by one, using traditional techniques. Visitors to the store and workshops can will enjoy browsing among beautiful pieces while observing Vermontâ s finest craftspeople at work. www.shackletonthomas.com(link is external)  The Vermont Folk Rocker in Starksboro is Shaker inspired; simple, classic, aesthetic and designed to last for generations. Visitor will experience a small shop engaged in producing from scratch a handcrafted rocking chair with rich wood texture of highest quality.www.vermontfolkrocker.com(link is external)  The Chaffee Art Center in Rutland is a fifty-year-old not-for-profit community art center offering exhibitions and fine art by artists from all over Vermont, gallery talks and demonstrations, art and craft classes, and camps for adults and children, the twice annual award-winning Art in the Park art and craft festivals, and a gift shop including prints, cards, books and other items by artists for sale. www.chaffeeartcenter.org(link is external) Goodrich Maple Farm in Cabot is open year-round, with educational tours of the family-owned maple farm. Visitors who come during sugaring season (March and April) can see the large evaporator in action. The farm has combined cutting edge technology with good old fashioned hard work and know-how to make award-winning maple products and confections. Retail and mail order services are also available. http://goodrichmaplefarm.com(link is external)last_img read more

Nothing desultory for reigning spelling bee champ Ronan Howlett of Middlebury

first_imgRonan Howlett bested 42 other students from across Vermont to win the Vermont State Individual Spelling Bee on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Howlett, an eighth grader from Middlebury Union Middle School, and last year’ s winner, will now compete against top spellers from every other state in the nation in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, in June.  The winning word was ‘ desultory,’ an adjective which means ‘ marked by absence of a plan; disconnected; jumping from one thing to another; digressing from the main subject; random.’  Emily Ballou, of South Royalton School, came in second. Nicholas Knudsen, of Frederick H Tuttle Middle School came in third. In addition to advancing to the national spelling bee, Ronan Howlett received a trophy, an iPad and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., sponsored by FairPoint Communications, Vermont Lake Monsters, Burlington Free Press, Vermont Humanities Council, Vermont Principals Association and Vermont Agency of Education. For more information on the national bee, visit www.spellingbee.com(link is external). Elementary and middle school students (through grade 8) under the age of 16 were eligible to participate in this competition. Students from across Vermont who participated in the bee already competed in their regional bees this winter. Bob Johnson of the Vermont Principals’ Association introduced the event, which was held in the McCarthy Arts Center at Saint Michael’ s College. Adam Silverman of the Burlington Free Press served as pronouncer for the event. Peter Gilbert, Executive Director, Vermont Humanities Council; Mike Smith, State President, FairPoint Communications; and John Fischer, Deputy Commissioner, Vermont Agency of Education served as judges this year. Linda Wrazen of the Vermont Humanities Council and Deputy Commissioner Fischer presented the awards.2013 Vermont State Spelling Bee Participants Albany Community SchoolAutumnPerronAlbert D Lawton Intermediate SchoolIsabellePetrucciBarre City Elementary Middle SchoolCarliHarrisBarre Town Middle Elementary SchoolJuliaJaminetBethel Elementary SchoolGrace LaFromboiseBrighton Elementary SchoolColbyWorthCamels Hump Middle SchoolBecketHillCharlotte Central SchoolAbigailPostlewaiteChrist The King SchoolEsaAndersonCrossett Brook Middle SchoolHarley Miller-RowleyDanville SchoolChelsea CarcobaDority Home SchoolFinnDorityDothan Brook SchoolJessicaPatersonEdmunds Middle SchoolJuliaDrummondFlood Brook Union 20 Elementary SchoolCorynnWasylikoFrederick H Tuttle Middle SchoolNicholasKnudsenHarwood Union Middle/high SchoolErinMagillLyndon Town SchoolKayannaBurnsMain Street Middle SchoolAsaRichardson-SkinderMater Christi SchoolTracyFergusonMiddlebury Union Middle SchoolRonan HowlettMill River Union High SchoolEmilyBusheyMilton Elementary SchoolSamuelDooleyMt Anthony Union Middle SchoolTuckerBeaudoinNewBrook Elementary SchoolFairen StarkRichford Junior Senior High SchoolJosephWillsRiverside SchoolKaciCochranRutland Intermediate SchoolWilliamLatkinShelburne Community SchoolThomasDaleyShrewsbury Mountain Elementary SchoolOliviaSukerSouth Royalton SchoolEmilyBallouSt. Mary SchoolColinDowdStowe Middle High SchoolRosalieWasserThaddeaus Stevens SchoolLucindaStorzThetford AcademyRaphaelOrleck-JetterThetford Elementary SchoolOwenDeffnerTunbridge Central SchoolConnorLambertTwin Valley Middle SchoolDylanFlorenceWalden SchoolAzariahThomaWaterford Elementary SchoolLindseyWoodWestshire Elementary SchoolLoganGarrWilliston Central SchoolNatalieDurieuxlast_img read more

Legislative effort to deal with prescription drug, meth abuse moving forward

first_imgby Alicia Freese April 28, 2013 vtdigger.org An omnibus drug bill designed to tackle prescription drug and methamphetamine abuse is making headway in the Senate.The House passed H.522 in March. Since then three Senate committees have further honed the legislation. On Friday, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted out the bill, and it is expected to make a stop in Senate Appropriations before it arrives on the Senate floor this week.The House proposal launches new initiatives to stem opioid and methamphetamine abuse. H.522 sets minimum standards for doctors to consult the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System in order to ensure patients are not doctor-shopping for opiates. It also creates a monitoring system for meth precursor drugs that can be purchased at pharmacies; establishes a pilot program for wider distribution of a drug that reverses opioid overdoses; and requires the commissioner of the Department of Health to develop a statewide program for the disposal of unused prescription medicine. In addition, H.522 places more regulations on the sale of precious metals and makes it easier to crack down on drug activity that takes place on abandoned property.The Senate left most of the bill untouched, but the Judiciary Committee made several additions, including a provision that would allow doctors to prescribe methadone to drug addicts. It also calls for a 90 percent reduction in methadone clinic wait lists for patients. The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs scaled back monitoring requirements for the sale of precious metals.Sen. Richard Sears, D-Bennington, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the two major changes address what he saw as a major deficiency in the House bill, which did little, in his view, to expand drug abuse treatment.The Judiciary Committee added a provision that would allow doctors to prescribe Methadone for addiction treatment in an attempt to allow patients to bypass lengthy waits for the states treatment clinics.Sears says he has high hopes for this part of the bill. This would mean that my constituents who are currently driving to Greenfield, Mass., to get treatment would be able to get it in Bennington, Sears said. And thats a huge change â ¦ I dont know of any others states that have moved in this direction.Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington.However Jackie Corbally, the chief of treatment for the division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs (ADAP) in the Department of Health, told VTDigger its unlikely the proposed change in state statute will result in a change for Sears constituents. Thats because, while its a straightforward process to prescribe methadone for pain, doctors are encumbered by a number of state and federal regulations that prevent them from prescribing it for addiction treatment.Lifting state regulations wouldnt free the physicians from obligations under federal law, Corbally explained.The Judiciary Committees revision also calls for a 90 percent reduction in the number of patients waiting for methadone clinic treatment.Corbally said the department expects to make significant headway on addressing the wait list problem, but the 90 percent target is optimistic.We are incredibly optimistic about what this bill will do to our system as a whole, Corbally said. We feel in combination with the hub and spoke initiative we will be able to significantly address the waiting lists.The Judiciary Committee also put a three-year expiration date on the requirement that pharmacies use a free database to track purchases of precursor drugs, which can be used to manufacture meth.The sunset provision is a nod toward concerns raised by the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. The database allows both pharmacists and law enforcement to access data on drug purchases at a nationwide level.In a memo to the Judiciary Committee, the ACLU explains, That means all the data entered at your local drugstore when you buy behind-the-counter Sudafed is instantly available to any police officer or pharmacist using the system.Sears who supports expanding law enforcement access to the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System (VPMS) said he thinks its inconsistent to allow police warrantless access to the meth database without extending the same privilege to the VPMS.A lot of people are concerned about this huge database. Heres the real incongruity. Theyll know if Im buying Sudafed they being state police but were not giving state police access to who is buying OxyContin. So theres a concern here.Allen Gilbert, executive director of the ACLU, said the database, in addition to collecting information about drug sales, also holds onto peoples personal information, including their name, address, date of birth, and ID number.Gilbert concludes in the memo, I think its accurate to say that an increasing number of Vermonters are beginning to feel that every time the state encounters a new problem, a new database is built.The chair of the Health and Welfare Committee, Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, said the House bill made really good improvements to the VPMS, and her committee didnt think any changes were necessary. The House version sets up minimum mandatory requirements for doctors to register with the database.The Economic Development Committee removed another new database from the bill. This one would have tracked the sales of precious metals, in an effort to crack down on addiction-fueled thefts. The committee also lifted some of the other regulatory requirements that the House version put on pawnbrokers.Under the Senate version, pawnbrokers are no longer required to get a license and they are subject to less rigorous bookkeeping requirements.last_img read more

Construction phase of Brooks House redevelopment set to begin

first_imgBob Stevens, Drew Richards, Ben Taggard, Peter Richards, and Craig Miskovich announced Tuesday that they have completed the closing process and are set to move forward with the next phase of the Brooks House redevelopment. Construction on the landmark building in downtown Brattleboro will begin before the end of July and should take approximately one year. ‘It was a long, difficult process to put together the financing for this project and here we are, nearly a year and a half later, and we’re finally ready for construction,’said Miskovich.  To finance the $24 million project, the investment group put together a complex package that includes common equity, senior and subordinated debt, private loans, preferred equity, a Community Development Block Grant, a town loan, and Historic and New Market tax credits, in addition to State funding for fit up for the colleges.Inside the building, a large ground-floor atrium will serve as the main entrance from Main Street and Harmony Lot, and will open inside onto the retail businesses in the building. ‘Our design preserves many of the historic features that define the building, and restores some others, like the original storefront layout,’said Bob Stevens.  Stevens & Associates is providing architecture and engineering services for the project and Breadloaf Construction of Middlebury, Vermont, will serve as the construction manager.‘We’re excited to see the Brooks House begin to add to the vitality of downtown Brattleboro.  With tenants like The Community College of Vermont, Vermont Technical College, Duo restaurant, and Oak Meadow School, we have a lot to look forward to as a community.  Our intent is to rebuild the Brooks House so that it brings much more activity downtown than it did before the fire,’commented Ben Taggard.  The building has space for retail, restaurants, and offices, as well as one- and two-bedroom apartments. ‘To date, the response from prospective tenants has been remarkable and we’ve received commitments to occupy more than 70% of the building.  It was a challenge to get commitments for a shell of a building that we didn’t own, but people are excited about the potential.  We are committed to finding a mix of tenants that makes for a stronger downtown,’said Drew Richards.‘The Brooks House redevelopment effort has benefited from a great deal of support both within and beyond our community, starting with Governor Shumlin’s vision for a downtown campus for the Colleges,’commented Pete Richards.For more information on the Brooks House go to www.brookshouse.com(link is external)last_img read more

Prevailing wage bill sent to Appropriations in unusual last-minute switch

first_imgby Hilary Niles vtdigger.org In a surprise move just before a full House vote Wednesday, a bill to align construction workers’ pay on some state projects with federal wage standards was bumped to another committee.H.878 would replace Vermont’s prevailing wage statute with the federal Davis Bacon Act. State and federal rules apply only to certain government-funded projects. The law does not affect public construction or private enterprises.Lawmakers and their lawyers huddle Wednesday on the House floor when a procedural objection to a labor bill surfaced. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDiggerUnions and labor advocates, backed by the Democratic caucus this session, support the switch. They say adopting the federal standard would “level the playing field” for union shops and contractors who pay benefits.Davis-Bacon wages are set by federal standards for different regions, so the wages in Vermont won’t necessarily match those of, say, California. Even within the state, there would be some variation by area.The federal standard increases labor costs relative to total project costs, rendering them less competitive than employers who pay lower wages or don’t offer fringe benefits. If all contractors had to pay higher wages and benefits, as Davis-Bacon requires, then the higher-paying shops couldn’t be outbid as easily, some unions argued.But the lowest-bidder rule of thumb that drives state contractor choices worries non-union industry trade group Associated General Contractors, which partners with Vermont Independent Electrical Contractors Association.Cathy Lamberton, a spokesperson for the two Vermont associations, said the discussion surrounding Davis-Bacon doesn’t account for non-traditional fringe benefits many contractors provide, such as educational costs, use of vehicles and allowances for work gear.Those fringe benefits will go away if Vermont adopts Davis-Bacon, she says, because employers won’t be able to afford both. But her biggest worry looms more than a year away, with implementation of single-payer health care in Vermont, she said.The Davis-Bacon wages incorporate the cost of health insurance, and the state’s single-payer financing mechanism would be levied on top of the Davis-Bacon wages, she said. That’s like being asked to pay for employees’ health insurance twice, Lamberton says.It’s an argument refuted by David Mickenberg, who represents the Vermont Building and Construction Trades Council.“We fundamentally disagree,” Mickenberg said by email, “with the premise that speculation as to what health care reform may or may not look like years from now should be used to deny Vermont’s construction workers benefits that make their families healthier, increase their training and skills, and provide retirement security.”Rep. John Moran, D-Wardsboro, who was planning to present H.878 to the House on Wednesday afternoon before it hit a procedural roadblock, said arguments can be made on both sides whether Davis-Bacon costs or saves money. For him, it comes down to a matter of fairness.“Vermont (has) the lowest prevailing wage in the entire New England area,” Moran said. “It’s essential we put money into working Vermonters’ pockets.”Rep. Don Turner, R-Milton, objected to the prevailing wage bill because it could cost the state more money, and it hadn’t yet been vetted by the House Committee on Appropriations. House rule 35a requires all bills “carrying an appropriation” to go before that group before they can be considered by the full chamber.Moran confessed to being caught off guard Wednesday by the floor action. He wasn’t the only one who was surprised. Turner’s objection prompted a minutes-long huddle behind the podium of House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morrisville.Moran said in an interview Wednesday evening that Smith had previously consulted with House Appropriations Chair Martha Heath, D-Westford. The two had determined the bill did not require her committee’s approval.On the House floor, Smith overruled Turner’s objection, but a subsequent motion to move the bill to Heath’s committee won approval with no objections.Jeff Potvin, president of the Vermont Building and Construction Trades Council, heard about the development Wednesday afternoon. He said it seemed like an attempt to throw a roadblock in front of the bill.Potvin, Mickenberg and Moran all say they remain hopeful that the bill will pass. Turner could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.last_img read more

Senate might ‘bail’ on health care bill

first_imgby Morgan True vtdigger.org(link is external) After gathering testimony from dozens of witnesses and spending hours crafting a bill in several committees starting in January, the Legislature’s primary piece of health care legislation this session is likely going nowhere. The bill, S252, went before a committee of conference between the two chambers on Tuesday. Senator Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, told the other members of the committee that the timeframe for adjournment, which is expected to be Saturday, would not allow for the Senate and House versions to be reconciled.Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, is chair of the Senate Committee on Finance. Photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDiggerRep. Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, confirmed that to get the bill passed by Saturday, the conference committee would have to complete its work Tuesday.“We can’t dedicate the time to digest the differences (between the two versions) in one day, let alone reach agreement, so maybe we should just bail,” said Ashe, chair of the Senate Finance Committee.Rep. Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, chairman of the House Health Care Committee, hears testimony at the Statehouse in Montpelier. Photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDiggerFisher, chair of the House Health Care Committee, said the schedule for adjournment — which Ashe referred to as a “false construct” — is set by legislative leadership and out of the conference committee’s control. He urged Ashe and other senators to work toward a resolution.“I think we owe it to ourselves and the hard work of many committees to work our way though as much as we can and do our best,” Fisher said.“One day for the health care bill?” Ashe asked.“That would be my goal,” Fisher responded.“Many days for rinky-dink bills all over the building, but one day for this one?” Ashe asked.“That’s the goal,” Fisher said.The House of Representatives could vote to suspend its rules to allow legislation to move more quickly, but that would require a two-thirds vote. House Republicans have said that they won’t vote to suspend the rules for bills they opposed earlier in the session or bills that the caucus votes internally not to support.“The way the vote went on the floor, I doubt we would allow a suspension of the rules on [S.252],” said House Minority Leader Don Turner, R-Milton.The same could be true for a litany of other bills, some of which – like the budget and the tax and fee bills – must pass for state government to continue to operate.However, it appears that House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morrisville, has no intention of extending the session for the health care bill.“I don’t care (if it passes); it can die. It’s not a must-pass,” Smith said.In an afternoon session of the conference committee, Ashe delivered what he called “the one day option,” which uses the Senate language for virtually all sections that the two versions have in common and strikes several sections added by the House.The Senate proposal did not include a section in the House bill that would impose a deadline of January 2015 for the governor to present a financing proposal for universal health care.Other sections the Senate proposal left out include a provision raising the employer assessment to generate additional revenue, a provision increasing regulations for and banning certain practices by pharmacy benefit managers(link is external) and language that would create a pilot and study program for the use of adverse childhood experience questionnaires(link is external).The Senate proposal left in a controversial provision relating to the regulations for and practices of urgent care centers(link is external).However, if the House doesn’t agree to the Senate’s terms then those terms are moot and the urgent care provisions would be too.Fisher said he had a counter-offer for the senators that he planned to deliver by hand Tuesday night, the details of which were not immediately available.If the senators do not agree to his offer, Fisher acknowledged that the bill could not pass unless the date for adjournment is changed.It’s possible that sections of the bill could be splintered off and attached to one of the “must pass” pieces of legislation, but with the exception of the employer assessment provision — a version of which is included in the budget — it’s not clear if there’s an appropriate vehicle for many aspects of the bill.The health care bill was originally introduced by Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham, as a concrete proposal to finance universal health care(link is external), but it failed to gain traction, because at the time the Legislature expected Gov. Peter Shumlin would come forward with his own financing proposal that would set the legislative agenda for health care reform during the session.When the Shumlin administration’s proposal never materialized, Ashe turned to Galbraith’s bill as a vehicle to advance the state’s health care reform agenda legislatively as well as adding several housekeeping measures such as tweaking the employer assessment – a per employee penalty for not offering affordable health care.The bill was greatly revised in the House, where the House Health Care Committee spent weeks taking testimony, revising sections and adding new ones.Both the Senate(link is external) and the House(link is external) versions of S.252 are aimed at clarifying and reaffirming aspects of Act 48, the state’s 2011 universal health care law, and ensuring lawmakers will have access to the information they need during the next legislative session to pass laws that will set the program in motion.While the principles laid out in the bill don’t need to be enshrined in statute to guide lawmakers going forward, Fisher said he was disappointed that sections in the House bill altering current practices by actors in the health care arena might be lost.last_img read more

Southern Vermont estate goes for $4.35 million

first_imgMurs Woods, a 160 acre mountain estate listed by Vermont Country Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, recently sold for $4.35 million. The transaction represents the highest residential real estate sale in Vermont in the last 12 months. Murs Woods is a 160-acre mountain retreat sited within minutes of Stratton Mountain Resort. Designed as a family estate, it encompasses a gracious Adirondack-style main residence, airy carriage barn guest house, and an authentic Michigan log house, each with its own serene setting overlooking a 5-acre pond.  Twelve acres of manicured and landscaped grounds open to woodlands and trails. The property also includes a caretaker’s cottage, post-and-beam barn, and small hunting camp.“There’s no doubt that currently Vermont holds great opportunity for buyers,” said Lisa Coneeny, President and Principal Broker at Vermont Country Properties Sotheby’s International. “Within the luxury home market in particular, extraordinary estates with acreage are available at exceptional price points.” The residence was listed exclusively by the Stratton office of Vermont Country Properties Sotheby’s International Realty. The listing broker, Diana Stugger, has specialized in Stratton luxury real estate for more than 30 years.Stugger connected with the Murs Woods property: “Once in every real estate agent’s career there is a property with which one feels a synergy.  For me, Murs Woods makes that association. I am delighted that Murs Woods has been purchased by a couple who will realize the property’s original intent and make it a cornerstone of their family legacy. This sale has fulfilled my career.”Vermont Country Properties Sotheby’s International Realty owns the majority market share in the $1 million plus luxury market in Bennington, Windham, and Windsor Counties (Northern New England Real Estate Network data, September 1, 2011 through October 30, 2014.)Vermont Country Properties Sotheby’s International Realty is one of the largest real estate firms in Vermont, specializing in resort and vacation homes.  Based in Manchester, Vermont with additional offices in Wilmington, Stratton, Ludlow, and Stowe, the firm also owns several regional marketing groups and a commercial division. Professional brokers leverage the worldwide Sotheby’s network to exceed market standards by connecting qualified buyers with sophisticated sellers. With superior service, local market knowledge, global connections and innovative marketing techniques, the agents of Vermont Country Properties Sotheby’s International Realty strive to help clients discover their Vermont story. http://www.vermontcountryproperties.com/(link is external)last_img read more

Vermont treasurer and VPIC urge ExxonMobil to adopt greenhouse gas emission reduction goals

first_imgThe state of Vermont is attempting to use the clout of its pension investments to get one of the world’s largest corporations to change its business practices. Vermont and a coalition of 47 global investors are challenging the ExxonMobil Corporation to adopt quantitative goals for reducing total greenhouse gas emissions from its products and operations. Upon the request of State Treasurer Beth Pearce, the Vermont Pension Investment Committee recently approved the co-filing of a shareholder resolution asking ExxonMobil to report to shareholders by the end of November on its plans to achieve these goals.“As a shareholder, VPIC can request that ExxonMobil examine its practices,” explained Pearce. “We believe that clear greenhouse gas emission reduction goals will make Exxon more competitive and in turn protect shareholder value and address climate risk. By requesting this as part of an investor coalition, Vermont has a significant seat at the table to advocate for change.”The VPIC oversees the management of approximately $4 billion in pension assets for the Vermont Retirement System and the Burlington Employees’ Retirement System. The State Treasurer is a member of the committee and acts as its Vice Chair. In passing the resolution at their December meeting, VPIC joined a coalition coordinated by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and Ceres. ICCR is a coalition of more than 300 faith-and values-based institutional investors representing more than $100 billion in collective assets. ICCR advocates for just and sustainable corporate practices and seeks to advance the transition to a green energy future. Ceres is a non-profit organization focused on mobilizing business and investor leadership on climate change, water scarcity and other sustainability challenges. The State Treasurer’s Office was a founding member of the Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk, organized in 2003.“VPIC continues to strengthen its proxy voting policies to influence companies we invest in to achieve certain environmental, social or governance goals,” said VPIC Chair Stephen Rauh. “As an institutional investor, VPIC maintains its standing and rights as a shareholder and the ability to influence corporate and governmental entities through constructive engagement. VPIC believes reports and enhanced disclosure requests offer a formal structure for decision making that helps management teams address risks and global trends that can have serious consequences for business and society.”The VPIC approved co-filed resolution describes ExxonMobil’s management strategy as “wholly inadequate” in response to the severity of the climate crisis. The resolution urges the company to create a disciplined business strategy with goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.“As the company’s emissions increase even as production declines, this resolution – with the largest number of co-filers of any resolution for the eighth year in a row – calls for a disciplined business strategy that would position the company to make needed reductions in emissions,” said Sister Patricia A. Daly, OP, who represents the lead filer of the resolution, the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, New Jersey. She also serves as the Executive Director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment.The challenge to ExxonMobil by VPIC follows a similar action in June in which the State Treasurer joined investors in a letter to Krispy Kreme to encourage the company to adopt a more sustainable palm oil policy in their operations. Vermont joined other investors in asking the company to verify that their palm oil had been produced by third parties in a sustainable manner that avoids deforestation. Krispy Kreme has since adopted a zero deforestation policy.“Using our influence as an investor, we can request a level of accountability from the companies we invest in,” said Pearce. “For example, 15 of the 24 managers that VPIC contracts with are signatories to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment. As signatories, these managers are expected to incorporate environmental, social and governance issues into their decision-making processes. Vermont and other investors hold these managers accountable by requiring appropriate disclosure and reporting on activities and progress on these issues.”               VPIC also is considering a similar shareholder filing resolution against BP, a multinational oil and gas company headquartered in London, England.Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2015:Resolution of the Vermont Pension Investment CommitteeWHEREAS:The 2014 Synthesis Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that continued greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and subsequent global warming will have “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” The Risky Business report forecasts significant economic costs to agriculture, labor productivity, and property.To mitigate the worst impacts of climate change and limit warming to below 2˚C, as agreed in the Copenhagen Accord, the IPCC estimates that a fifty percent reduction in GHG emissions globally is needed by 2050, relative to 1990 levels.Climate regulations are already here. In the United States, President Obama recently committed to reduce emissions 26-28% by 2025; and EPA Fuel Efficiency Standards require autos to average 54.5 MPG by 2025, calling for a new generation of low-carbon fuels. EU countries pledged to reduce emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. China, seen as the primary driver of future global demand for oil, made a commitment to peak its carbon emissions by 2030. These initial commitments foreshadow the global climate treaty to be negotiated in Paris in December 2015.A business plan with clear GHG reduction goals will strengthen ExxonMobil’s competitive position, protect shareholder value, and effectively manage climate risk. Sixty percent of Fortune 100 companies have set GHG reduction goals or renewable energy targets. CDP, which represents 767 institutional investors holding $92 trillion in assets, found that of the 386 companies in the S&P 500 that report to CDP, 79% earn a higher return on their carbon reduction investments than on their overall corporate capital investments.We believe the failure of ExxonMobil’s management to set public goals has impacted the company’s ability to reduce overall emissions: between 2011 and 2013, ExxonMobil’s emissions increased 3.7%, even as production fell 6.1%. ExxonMobil’s long-standing strategy of setting an internal price of carbon has not led to emissions reductions. As ExxonMobil itself notes, proper management of environmental performance requires that “key strategies and objectives” be established and that “results are regularly stewarded against prior commitments.”Nearly 90% of ExxonMobil’s GHG emissions are associated with the combustion of its products. A strategy to manage climate risk that does not limit GHG emissions from its products is incomplete. The evolution of ExxonMobil’s management strategy in response to the severity of the climate crisis has been wholly inadequate. We urge the company to create a disciplined business strategy with goals to reduce GHG emissions.RESOLVED: Shareholders request that the Board of Directors adopt quantitative goals for reducing total greenhouse gas emissions from the Company’s products and operations; and that the Company report to shareholders by November 30, 2015, on its plans to achieve these goals. Such a report will omit proprietary information and be prepared at reasonable cost.last_img read more

Four pediatricians leave Franklin County, blame Medicaid

first_imgby Erin Mansfield vtdigger.org(link is external) Four pediatricians say they’re packing up and leaving Franklin County because the Medicaid programs that insure about half of the community’s children aren’t paying them enough. Two of the doctors work in St Albans for Franklin County Pediatrics, which will close down completely. Another is leaving Mousetrap Pediatrics in St Albans, and the fourth left Mousetrap earlier in the year and hasn’t been replaced. The American Academy of Pediatrics of Vermont, which is loosely affiliated with the American Medical Association, says that will leave the parents of 6,000 children “scrambling for primary health care” among the northern Vermont county’s seven remaining pediatricians.“Everybody’s going to work together and try to make sure that these kids get the care that they need when they need it,” said Dr. Barbara Frankowski, the president of the Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.At her day job, Frankowski works as a pediatrician at the UVM Children’s Hospital in Burlington. The hospital has the same financial structure as the UVM Medical Center, and her pay is shielded from reimbursement rate changes.She said practices in her area would gladly take Franklin County patients, but she said driving south from St. Albans to Burlington is not a realistic solution because some families can’t afford transportation and others may find it difficult to drive down with crying, sick kids in the car.Most children in Franklin County use Medicaid, the combination state and federal program that historically reimburses doctors and hospitals at a lower rate than the federal Medicare program, which itself reimburses at a lower rate than private insurance companies do.About 70,000 children in Vermont are on some type of Medicaid, according to the Department of Vermont Health Access. Nearly 63,000 of those kids qualify for Medicaid because their parents have low incomes.When the Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid to more lower-middle income people, the law also bumped up reimbursement rates, largely to family doctors and pediatricians who serve many enrollees. The higher rates lasted from Jan. 1, 2013 to Dec. 31, 2014 and have not gone back up in Vermont.Dr. John DiMichele, who works at Mousetrap Pediatrics in St. Albans is leaving to take a job in North Carolina, owned by an out-of-state hospital system, where he will be an employee with a salary instead of a part-owner whose income is based on reimbursements.“I’ve worked in Mousetrap for 16 years,” DiMichele said. I know my families very very well. I actually enjoy what I do. It’s actually a very very difficult decision to make.”At Mousetrap, 69 percent of DiMichele’s patients in Vermont paid with Medicaid, and he said his income went down about 40 percent this year when reimbursements went down under the Affordable Care Act. The bills stayed the same, he said.“I think had the Legislature maintained level funding over the past couple years, we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” DiMichele said. “It’s that simple.”Dr. Kristen Connolly, who will leave when Franklin County Pediatrics closes, wrote her concerns a letter to Al Gobeille, the chair of Green Mountain Care Board, which regulates hospital budgets and spearheads health care reform.“I firmly believe that action needs to be taken, and soon, or this trend will continue throughout the state,” the letter said. She asked the board, Gov. Peter Shumlin, and the Legislature to figure out how to reverse the 20-percent rate cut to Medicaid reimbursements.Gobeille said in an interview that the Shumlin administration tried to keep Medicaid reimbursement rates steady with a 0.7-percent payroll tax, but that failed in the 2015 legislative session. He said the Green Mountain Care Board should do an entire “rate review” for Medicaid in the near future.Allan Ramsay, a family doctor who sits on the Green Mountain Care Board, said reimbursement rates for primary care are one of the things that keep him up at night, but there is no data saying doctors are leaving the whole state.“This issue of pediatricians leaving because of a payment model that is not working for them—we don’t want that to be a harbinger of health care reform in the future, in any way,” Ramsay said. “We can’t let that happen.”last_img read more

VEEP partners with Vermont Gas to offer workshop on weatherization

first_imgVermont Business Magazine The Vermont Energy Education Program (VEEP) has partnered with Vermont Gas to update its Button Up in-class workshop, giving middle and high school students a hands-on way to learn about thermal energy by exploring the effects of home weatherization. For students living in towns served by Vermont Gas, VEEP educators will bring the workshop to their classrooms at no cost. The partnership is all about increasing energy literacy among young Vermonters and increasing awareness of the importance of energy efficiency.The workshop was partially funded by Vermont Gas, which provides gas to over 50,000 customers in Chittenden and Franklin counties.  The company expects to soon serve families and businesses in Addison County.“VEEP is delighted to see Vermont Gas expand its efforts to include helping its young customers understand how to reduce their use of heating fuel and decrease the amount of money spent on energy,” said Cara Robechek, VEEP’s executive director.“We believe the cleanest and most affordable energy is the one we don’t use, that’s why we work so hard to help our customers reduce their energy needs through our award-winning efficiency programs,” said Don Rendall, President and CEO of Vermont Gas. “Working with the folks at VEEP to teach young Vermonters how to reduce their energy consumption and become more efficient is an important part of our work to build a cleaner energy future.”In the two-hour workshop, students are asked to consider how they can use less energy to heat their home while still keeping it at a comfortable temperature. They explore different insulation and air-sealing materials as well as data from model houses. High school students even take on a home heating challenge where they play the role of new homeowners, researching and “purchasing” weatherization improvements.“I love that there is a real-life application to the core idea of thermal energy,” said Jess Angell, VEEP director of curriculum and education. “I also love that it is an application that is meaningful to the current energy and climate issues in Vermont with an emphasis on ways students can make a difference.”In addition to updating the workshop, the staff at VEEP have created a workshop extension for grades 6–8, challenging middle school students to design, construct, and test a model house with the goal of making it as efficient to heat as possible. VEEP educators can support teachers in leading this extension or other lessons on energy to fit with their curriculum.For more information on VEEP’s statewide in-class workshops, curricula, professional development for teachers, and other hands-on energy education programs, visit veep.org(link is external). You can also contact Cara Robechek at 802-552-VNRG or e-mail [email protected](link sends e-mail) to schedule a local VEEP educator for your school.VEEPThe Vermont Energy Education Program’s mission is to promote energy literacy — a deep understanding of what energy is and how to use it efficiently — in schools and communities, to enable energy usage choices that will result in a sustainable and vital economy and a healthy environment.About Vermont GasVermont Gas Systems is a leader in energy efficiency and innovation, offering a clean, safe, affordable choice for over 50,000 homes, businesses, and institutions in Franklin and Chittenden counties. The company plays an important role in Vermont’s clean energy future by displacing higher-emitting fuels and with its award-winning energy efficiency programs. For more information about Vermont Gas visit www.VermontGas.com(link is external).Source: Vermont Gas. 8.30.2016last_img read more