State Agriculture officials announced October 1, 2002, that they have denied the application by Vermont Egg Farm (VEF) for a proposed expansion that would have more than doubled the size of its Highgate facility. In an 8-page finding, the Department cited a number of concerns in denying the expansion, primarily centering on manure management and its direct relationship to the potential return of the fly problem that plagued the facility in its early years of operation. “I considered this decision very carefully,” said Agriculture Commissioner Leon Graves, “because a big part of my job is to encourage and support all of the diversified agricultural interests of Vermont including small, medium, large and expanding farming operations. In the end, however, Vermont Egg Farm simply failed to meet the requirements for adequate manure management as called for by the LFO (Large Farm Operation) law.” The expansion application has generated a great deal of controversy since being deemed complete the first time in February of 2002. Just over one month later, the application was rendered incomplete due to revisions of the manure management plan. After more than five months passed, an amended manure management plan was resubmitted to the Department of Agriculture by Vermont Egg Farm. The application was recently deemed complete again on September 10. In both cases, a 10-day public comment period was offered. Graves, who operated a small dairy farm in Fairfield for many years prior to being named Commissioner of Agriculture, said public input is a crucial part of the process. However, Graves said that for the LFO process to have legitimacy it can’t be subject to political concerns or popular opinion and each application must be judged on its merits on a case-by-case basis. “It is the public policy of this state as expressed in law, and my own personal belief as well, that diverse agricultural operations are essential to our rural communities and character, that farming preserves the environmental resources of the state, that farming furthers the economic self-sufficiency of the state, and that agriculture provides a general benefit to the health and welfare of the people of the state,” Graves said. “These policies do not equate this value to the relative size of an agricultural operation, however,” said Graves, “and it is for this very reason we have the LFO law in Vermont. To remain economically viable some farms may choose to expand and we have to allow them this option. At the same time, we have to make sure that this is done in an agriculturally sound way.” “We have been hearing about the increase of large farms inVermont. The truth is that only 17 farms in Vermont — just slightly over 1.1 percent of our approximately 1,500 dairy farms and less than 2/10 of one percent of our 6,700 total farms — are permitted as large farms.” “Furthermore,” Graves added, “all but one of our large farms are family owned and support not only the families that run them but as many as 20 other individuals and their families, not to mention the tax base of their communities and the businesses that supply them.” Graves encouraged anyone with questions about large farms and the LFO permit process to contact the Department of Agriculture in Montpelier.
NEW CEO APPOINTED AT CENTRAL VERMONT MEDICAL CENTERBerlin, Vt – Trustees at Central Vermont Medical Center have announced the appointment of Judy Tarr of Damariscotta, Maine, as the new President and Chief Executive Officer. The appointment will be effective September 10, 2007, according to John Nicholls, Chair of the CVMC Board of Trustees. She will be replacing Daria V. Mason, who will be retiring at the end of June, after nearly thirty years of service at CVMC. “I am pleased to report that the recruitment process was very inclusive and thorough. We reviewed an outstanding group of candidates from a national search and our decision was unanimous to offer the position to Judy Tarr,” said Nicholls in making the announcement. Tarr has been President and CEO of Miles Healthcare since 1993. Miles Health Care is a health care system located in Damariscotta, Maine, consisting of a hospital, nursing facility, assisted living facility, congregate house/independent living facility, physician practice and home health agency. She will be the fourth President and CEO of CVMC, since it was established in 1968. Nicholls also announced that the Trustees have appointed long-time senior executive, Daniel Bagalio as Interim CEO during the transition. Bagalio is currently Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer and has been with CVMC for over thirty years.-end-
The members of Vermont’s Congressional Delegation — US Senator Patrick Leahy (D), US Senator Bernie Sanders (I) and US Representative Peter Welch (D) — are urging the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Commerce (DOC) to invest in Vermont’s broadband infrastructure. The lawmakers wrote to the agencies this week in support of the more than $219 million in broadband infrastructure applications submitted by Vermont companies and nonprofit organizations seeking Vermont’s share of $7.2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act broadband infrastructure grants.“Each week our offices receive multiple pleas from Vermonters desperate for access to affordable, high-speed internet access,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to USDA Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Administrator Jonathan Adelstein and DOC National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling. “These constituents are disadvantaged compared to many Americans and citizens of countries around the world who enjoy exponentially faster internet access speeds at a fraction of the cost compared to rural Vermonters’ access speeds and rates. Those with inadequate access to the internet suffer economically, socially and physically as advancements in e-commerce, telecommuting, telemedicine and e-learning become more and more pervasive.” The economic recovery plan directed RUS and NTIA to solicit and review proposals to expand broadband availability in underserved and unserved communities. Earlier this year, the agencies announced hundreds of millions in grants from an initial proposal solicitation, referred to as Round 1, including two NTIA grants for Vermont – a $1.2 million broadband mapping grant for the Vermont Center for Geographic Information, and a $2.5 million grant to the Vermont Council on Rural Development to help communities adopt broadband. The lawmakers commended the approval of those grants in their letter but expressed disappointment that Vermont has not yet received any funding for broadband infrastructure itself.“A recent University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies poll showed that only 69 percent of Vermonters have access to high-speed internet access,” the lawmakers wrote. “National data used to prepare the NTIA’s own February 2010 Digital Nation: 21st Century America’s Progress Towards Universal Broadband Internet Access reported that Vermont ranked 38th in the nation for broadband availability. Despite these appalling numbers, Vermont failed to receive a single Recovery Act-funded broadband infrastructure grant in Round 1.” The lawmakers said they highlighted all six applications they were aware of originating in the State of Vermont and serving Vermonters that have been submitted to the agencies in response to the second request for proposals. Other applications may have also been submitted. The applications highlighted in the letter include: Vermont Electrical Cooperative’s $4.6 million mid-mile fiber optic project in Northern Vermont; Vermont Telecommunications Authority’s $33.4 million proposal to create Vermont Fiber Link, a mid-mile fiber network increasing bandwidth and reducing broadband costs to state offices, healthcare institutions, schools and other critical customers; Vermont Telephone Company’s $13.7 million proposal to create an open-network middle-mile hub-and-spoke fiber network to schools, colleges, public safety facilities, healthcare facilities, and telecommunications providers; East Central Vermont Fiber Network’s $44 million loan and grant proposal to build a universal, open-access, fiber-to-the-home system to 18 Vermont towns including libraries, town offices, schools, community facilities, households and businesses; Vermont Telephone Company’s $118 million loan and grant proposal to create an open-network serving 61,497 Vermont premises comprising all 33,165 un-served households, with Tri-Band 4G/LTE mobile broadband, plus fiber-to-the-home to all VTel premises; and Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom’s $5.6 million loan and grant proposal to provide fiber-to-the-home technology and offer connection speeds between 5 and 100 Mbps. The text of the Delegation’s letter is available below or online as a PDF. More information about the RUS and NTIA broadband programs, along with more information about the Vermont applications, can be found online at www.broadbandusa.gov(link is external).# # # # #April 29, 2010Mr. Jonathan Adelstein Mr. Lawrence StricklingAdministrator Assistant SecretaryUnited States Department of Agriculture United States Department of CommerceRural Utilities Service National Telecommunications and STOP 1590 Information Administration 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Rm 5151 1401 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20250 Washington, DC 20230Dear Administrator Adelstein and Assistant Secretary Strickling:We are writing in support of several critical broadband infrastructure proposals submitted by Vermont organizations to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunity Improvement Program (BTOP). Each week our offices receive multiple pleas from Vermonters desperate for access to affordable, high-speed internet access. These constituents are disadvantaged compared to many Americans and citizens of countries around the world who enjoy exponentially faster internet access speeds at a fraction of the cost compared to rural Vermonters access speeds and rates. Those with inadequate access to the internet suffer economically, socially and physically as advancements in e-commerce, telecommuting, telemedicine and e-learning become more and more pervasive. Messages from constituents like those mentioned above, and a recognition by the President and Members of Congress that rural America remains underserved by our existing telecommunications infrastructure, resulted in the inclusion of $7.2 billion in broadband infrastructure funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build broadband infrastructure. This investment aimed to connect millions of Americans to the internet at internationally competitive speeds and rates better positioning them to compete in tomorrow’s economy and aimed to put thousands of Americans to work in the telecommunications industry of today. A recent University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies poll showed that only 69 percent of Vermonters have access to high-speed internet access. National data provided by the NTIA’s own February 2010 Digital Nation: 21st Century America’s Progress Towards Universal Broadband Internet Access reported that broadband availability in Vermont ranked 38th in the nation. Despite these appalling numbers, Vermont failed to receive a single Recovery Act-funded broadband infrastructure grant in Round 1. While our home state was fortunate to receive NTIA grants for broadband mapping and broadband aggregation, we feel it is vitally important that Vermont, one of the nation’s most rural states with many underserved rural communities, benefit from the Recovery Act’s broadband infrastructure program.A number of Vermont for-profit and non-profit organizations have submitted proposals to RUS BIP and NTIA BTOP. We wanted to bring your attention to these proposals in hopes that RUS and NTIA can help Vermont address its critical telecommunications infrastructure needs in Round 2. Vermont NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunities Program Applicants· Vermont Telecommunications Authority: A $33.4 million proposal to create Vermont Fiber Link, a statewide, mid-mile fiber network increasing bandwidth and reducing broadband costs to state offices, healthcare institutions, schools and other critical customers.· Vermont Electrical Cooperative: A $4.6 million proposal to connect 154 anchor institutions to a fiber network in Northern Vermont.· Vermont Telephone Company: A $13.7 million proposal to create an open-network middle-mile hub-and-spoke fiber network to schools, colleges, public safety facilities, healthcare facilities, and telecommunications providers.Vermont RUS Broadband Initiatives Program· East Central Vermont Fiber Network: A $44 million loan and grant proposal to build a universal, open-access, fiber-to-the-home system to 18 Vermont towns including libraries, town offices, schools and other critical community facilities along with all households and businesses desiring service.· Vermont Telephone Company: A $118 million loan and grant proposal to create an open-network serving 61,497 Vermont premises comprising all 33,165 un-served households, with Tri-Band 4G/LTE mobile broadband, plus fiber-to-the-home to all VTel premises.· Waitsfield Champlain Valley Telecom: A $5.6 million loan / grant proposal to provide fiber-to-the-home technology and offer connection speeds between 5 and 100 Mbps. We appreciate your fair and timely consideration of these proposals, and look forward to working with you to ensure Americans across the country have affordable high speed internet access as quickly as possible.Should you have any questions about our support of these applications, please feel free to contact us directly.Sincerely,PATRICK LEAHY BERNIE SANDERSUnited States Senator United States SenatorSource: Vermont congressional delegation. WASHINGTON (Monday, May 17, 2010) –
Union Bankshares, Inc (Nasdaq:UNB) today announced the results of voting at the company’s annual meeting of stockholders held on May 19, 2010 at the banking offices of the Company’s subsidiary, Union Bank, in Morrisville, Vermont. Approximately 83 percent of the company’s outstanding shares of common stock were represented at the meeting. Incumbent directors Cynthia D. Borck, Steven J. Bourgeois, Kenneth D. Gibbons, Franklin G. Hovey, II, Robert P. Rollins, Richard C. Sargent, John H. Steele and Schuyler W. Sweet, were reelected to a one-year term. Also elected to a one-year term on the Company’s board was new nominee Cornelius J. Van Dyke, who has served on the board of Union Bank since November, 2009. Election of directors was by plurality vote.The stockholders also ratified the selection of the firm of Berry, Dunn, McNeil & Parker as the company’s external auditors for 2010.In addition, the company announced the adoption by the board of directors on May 19, 2010, of a limited repurchase program to authorize the repurchase of a de minimus number of shares of the company’s common stock during each calendar quarter through the end of 2011. Under the authority, the company is authorized to repurchase up to 2,500 shares of its common stock each calendar quarter in open market purchases or privately negotiated transactions, as management may deem advisable and as market conditions may warrant. The repurchase authorization for a calendar quarter expires at the end of that quarter to the extent it has not been exercised, and is not carried forward into future quarters. The quarterly repurchase authorization expires on December 31, 2011. The company previously adopted a repurchase program in 2005 (reauthorized in 2008) pursuant to which 100,130 shares of common stock were repurchased at a total cost of $2.0 million. That repurchase program was completed during the first quarter of 2010.About Union Bankshares, Inc.Union Bankshares, Inc., with headquarters in Morrisville, Vermont, is the bank holding company parent of Union Bank, which offers deposit, loan, trust and commercial banking services throughout northern Vermont and northwestern New Hampshire. As of March 31, 2010, the Company had approximately $440 million in consolidated assets. The Company operates 13 full service banking offices and 29 ATM facilities in Vermont, as well as a full service branch and ATM in Littleton, New Hampshire.Statements made in this press release that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements. Investors are cautioned that all forward-looking statements necessarily involve risks and uncertainties, and many factors could cause actual results and events to differ materially from those contemplated in the forward-looking statements. When we use any of the words “believes,” “expects,” “anticipates” or similar expressions, we are making forward-looking statements. The following factors, among others, could cause actual results and events to differ from those contemplated in the forward-looking statements: uncertainties associated with general economic conditions; changes in the interest rate environment; inflation; political, legislative or regulatory developments; acts of war or terrorism; the markets’ acceptance of and demand for the Company’s products and services; technological changes, including the impact of the internet on the Company’s business and on the financial services market place generally; the impact of competitive products and pricing; and dependence on third party suppliers. For further information, please refer to the Company’s reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission at www.sec.gov(link is external).Source: Union. MORRISVILLE, Vt., May 20, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) —
Legal developments concerning a Pulitzer Prize-winning weekly newspaper published on the California coast but formed in the state of Vermont is offering hope for beleaguered newspapers throughout the country. The newspaper, the Point Reyes Light, incorporated in May as an L3C, a Low profit Limited Liability company authorized under Vermont law. The first-in-the-nation L3C statute was approved by the Vermont legislature and signed into law by Governor Jim Douglas in 2008.“We believe that this is the first newspaper in the country to incorporate as an L3C, and it gives hope to other papers facing their possible demise due to lower advertising revenues and competition from the web,” said Kim Butler, a business law attorney in the Lebanon office of Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC, who advised the owners on the law. “According to the owners, it is unlikely that this newspaper will ever make a substantial profit. Rather, it is organized and run for the benefit of its readers and the journalism profession. The L3C structure provides for that.”The Light was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for investigative reporting, but had struggled financially since it was sold in 2005 by long-time editor and publisher David V. Mitchell, who retired. The Light is now owned by the Point Reyes Light Publishing Company L3C that in turn is owned by Marin Media Institute, a nonprofit corporation governed by a board comprised of journalists, writers and educators. Its directors include West Marin County residents Corey Goodman, a biotech entrepreneur, and Mark Dowie, the former publisher and editor of Mother Jones magazine and a noted investigative journalist.Butler was connected with the paper through client Warren Bingham, a respected media consultant and former operator of the Stinehour Press, a high-quality fine printing company in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, which also fell victim to a changing publishing industry a couple of years ago.The concept of the L3C was developed by Robert Lang of the Mary Elizabeth and Gordon B. Mannweiler Foundation, and Marcus Owens, former head of the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Division. In a collaborative effort involving a panel of experts assembled by them, Lang and Owens crafted an entity that is specifically designed to facilitate low-profit investing by private foundations in socially responsible businesses whose primary mission is charitable. In 2008, they worked with the Downs Rachlin Martin lobbying team in Montpelier and with the Vermont legislature to make the concept a reality.As an L3C owned by a nonprofit corporation, the company has more options available to it to keep the presses rolling, according to Butler. The paper can accept grants from nonprofit organizations as well as program-related investments, or PRIs. Under IRS rules, private foundations and donor-advised funds must give away five percent of their assets each year. The PRI is an allowed contribution. Under the rules, a PRI must be made in a company that significantly furthers one or more charitable or educational purposes. The company may not have as a significant purpose the production of income or the appreciation of property, and the company may not exist for political purposes.Although the L3C might not be the answer for every newspaper, it may provide hope for some, according to Michael Donoghue, executive director of the Vermont Press Association. “Newspapers continue to be the number one source of news and advertising for Americans, but some newspapers are struggling, some have even been forced out of business, and many have to re-think their business model,” he said. “We need more creative thinking from papers like the Light to keep local journalism strong and investigative reporting alive. Newspapers are essential in trying to ensure democracy, open government, transparency and for keeping communities informed on news, weather, sports, features, public notices and more.”Downs Rachlin Martin PLLC is a full-service law firm with more than 60 attorneys and six offices in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York. DRM provides legal services to local, national and international clients in practice areas that include bankruptcy and business restructuring, business law, captive insurance, energy and telecommunications, family law, health law, intellectual property, labor and employment, litigation, real estate and land use, environmental law, tax law and trusts and estates. The firm represents clients in legislative, regulatory and public affairs through the Government and Public Affairs group. DRM is the law firm member for Vermont of Lex Mundi, the world’s leading association of independent law firms.Source: Downs Rachlin Martin. 6.29.2010##
Following Entergy Corporation’s (NYSE:ETR) major reorganization announced last month (STORY) by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer J Wayne Leonard, Leo Denault, executive vice president and chief financial officer; Richard Smith, president, Entergy wholesale commodities business; and Rod West, executive vice president and chief administrative officer have named new leaders within their respective organizations effective immediately. These changes include beefing up the governmental relations office in its wholesale power business, which includes Vermont Yankee. Vermont Yankee’s license expires in 2012 and it will need legislative approval (STORY) to extend the license another 20 years.New leadership appointments include:• Michele Lopiccolo, formerly vice president, investor relations, has been named vice president, planning and financial communications and will continue reporting to Denault.• Paula Waters, formerly director, investor relations, will succeed Lopiccolo as vice president, investor relations and report to Lopiccolo.• Barrett Green and Mike Twomey join Entergy’s wholesale commodities business reporting directly to Smith.– Green has been named vice president, finance and risk, having most recently served as vice president, chief risk officer designate for Enexus Energy Corporation.– Twomey has been named vice president, external affairs – wholesale. He previously served as vice president, utility strategy.• Kimberly Despeaux has been named senior vice president, federal policy, regulatory and governmental affairs. She previously served as vice president and associate general counsel – federal regulation and policy. Despeaux will report to West.These appointments provide further development of proven leaders.Lopiccolo will lead the integration of strategic planning, corporate planning, investor relations and the investment approval process to ensure consistent, high quality information is presented to senior management, Entergy’s board and Entergy’s investors – all of whom rely upon that information for decision making purposes. Lopiccolo joined Entergy in 1989, having most recently served as vice president, investor relations, and before that vice president, corporate planning and performance. Previous positions were held in a variety of roles in the finance and accounting organizations. Lopiccolo is a graduate of Louisiana State University, obtained her master of business administration from Tulane University, and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reactor Technology Program for Utility Executives. She is a certified public accountant.Waters will serve as the primary interface with Wall Street analysts and investors, and she will be responsible for formulating press releases, presentations and other financial disclosures to assist investors in their assessments of Entergy’s future prospects. In addition, Waters will provide feedback to senior management and the board on analysts’ perspectives of Entergy relative to its peers. Waters joined Entergy in 1994. She has held positions in investor relations, strategic planning and financial communications in the finance organization for the past seven years. Prior to that, she held various positions conducting financial analysis and project finance supporting Entergy’s non-nuclear wholesale business development pursuits. Waters received a master of business administration from Tulane University and a bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University. She also holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.Green is charged with enabling greater integration and accountability of the finance and risk functions for Entergy’s wholesale commodities business. He will have responsibility for streamlining and consolidating mid- and back-office functions into a single group, including assessment and communication of market and counterparty credit risk, financial planning, and settlement and reporting processes. Centralization of accountability for these key financial and risk functions will enable non-utility operations to more effectively plan, manage and report its financial position, as well as actively manage risks, service its merchant contracts and meet necessary regulatory, financial and commercial reporting requirements with improved focus also intended to lower the business risk profile. Green joined Entergy in 1997 and has held a variety of positions, most recently serving as chief risk officer designate for Enexus. Prior to that he led the commercial analytics function responsible for developing and maintaining the company’s point of view on commodity, economic, technology, environmental and regulatory trends that have the potential to impact Entergy’s existing businesses and future investments. Other Entergy experience includes overseeing the sale of the Entergy-Koch, LP assets, directing the company’s investment approval process, directing the corporate planning and performance department and actively participating in nuclear business development. Green received a master of business administrationfrom the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, a master in engineering from Virginia Tech, and his undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of Mississippi.Twomey, a Norwich, Conn., native, will bring a heightened and unified focus to state governmental and regulatory affairs for the new wholesale commodities organization. As the non-utility nuclear assets move through the various phases of the nuclear license renewal process, a dedicated Northeast governmental and regulatory affairs group within the wholesale organization will increase focus on this critical aspect of the business. This group will have an increased presence in these states and will serve to strengthen the company’s relationships with state regulatory stakeholders associated with the non-utility nuclear generation assets. Twomey began his career at Entergy in 2002 as assistant general counsel – regulatory for Entergy Services, Inc. working on regulatory matters pending at the Louisiana Public Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In 2004, he was named vice president of regulatory affairs for Louisiana’s utility companies and became vice president, utility strategy in 2009. Prior to joining Entergy, Twomey was senior regulatory counsel for BellSouth in Atlanta with responsibility for various regulatory matters before the state public service commissions in BellSouth’s nine-state region. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Tulane University and a law degree, with honors, from the University of Connecticut.Despeaux takes the helm of Entergy’s federal policy and governmental affairs organization and will be responsible for developing policies and implementing legislative, regulatory and executive branch strategies at the federal level. Her new role will encompass policy affecting transmission and regional transmission organizations, wholesale / competitive markets, the Entergy System Agreement, climate change, FERC regulation and policy, other federal initiatives regarding electricity and North American Electric Reliability Corporation policy. Despeaux joined Entergy in 1985. She most recently served as vice president, associate general counsel – federal regulation and policy and before that as director, federal regulatory affairs. Previous positions were held in a variety of roles in the legal and federal governmental affairs organizations. Despeaux is a graduate of University of North Dakota and obtained her law degree from Tulane University.Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and it is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.7 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of more than $10 billion and more than 15,000 employees.Additional investor information can be accessed online atwww.entergy.com/investor_relations(link is external).In this news release, and from time to time, Entergy Corporation makes certain “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Except to the extent required by the federal securities laws, Entergy undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.Forward-looking statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties. There are factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements, including (a) those factors discussed in (i) Entergy’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2009, (ii) Entergy’s Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2010, and (iii) Entergy’s other reports and filings made under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, (b) uncertainties associated with rate proceedings, formula rate plans and other cost recovery mechanisms, (c) uncertainties associated with efforts to remediate the effects of major storms and recover related restoration costs, (d) nuclear operating and regulatory risks, and (e) legislative and regulatory actions, and conditions in commodity and capital markets during the periods covered by the forward-looking statements, in addition to other factors described elsewhere in this release and in subsequent securities filings.Source: Entergy. 7.7.2010
Representative Peter Welch, along with Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), introduced legislation this week to help dairy farmers meet their labor needs. The H-2A Improvement Act of 2011 (H.R. 1720) would allow dairy farmers access to the H-2A visa program, which other sectors of agriculture currently use to hire foreign workers.‘Vermont’s dairy farmers are hanging on by their fingernails,’ Welch said. ‘Every day they struggle with multiple challenges to survival, including high energy costs, unstable milk prices and a shortage of workers. This legislation will help take one challenge off their plates by ensuring they have an adequate labor supply. I look forward to working with Rep. Owens and Sen. Leahy to pass this bill into law.’The H-2A visa program allows farmers to hire foreign workers when domestic labor is unavailable. H.R. 1720 would allow foreign dairy workers, sheepherders and goat herders access the program. The U.S. Department of Labor issued rules in 2010 excluding the dairy industry from the H-2A agricultural worker visa program. While sheepherders and goat herders currently have access to the H-2A program, H.R. 1720 would make this access permanent.As a founder and co-chair of the Congressional Dairy Farmers Caucus and member of the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Welch is a strong advocate for Vermont dairy farmers. He has introduced legislation that would stabilize the dairy prices for farmers and will be a key player in writing the next Farm Bill in this Congress. In the fall of 2009, Welch worked successfully with Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders to provide $350 million in emergency assistance to dairy farmers.H.R. 1720 is a companion bill to S. 852, introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Leahy.Source: BURLINGTON, VT ‘ Rep. Peter Welch.
The Vermont Foliage Force, a task force of Vermont state, business and non-profit entities working to restore Vermont fall tourism, is asking businesses and individuals to share images of their Vermont today, in real-time. The task force is requesting unedited and authentic portrayals of our towns, roadways and scenery that can be used in their fall foliage marketing campaign.Vermonters can share their favorite leaf-peeping routes via video or upload scenic photos on www.vermontpartners.com(link is external). These images and stories will be used to share the vibrancy of our state events, resiliency and character in a See Vermont Like a Local campaign directed by the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.‘This is an opportunity for Vermonters to serve as ambassadors of their towns, to support their neighbors and local businesses,’ said Steve Cook, deputy commissioner of tourism. ‘True locals’ tips and authentic images illustrate that we are open for business and that, without exception, our foliage season is going to be spectacular.’ Even in areas unaffected or quickly recovering, post-Irene reports have resulted in cancellations of tours and travel plans that have rendered tourist-dependent businesses idle. The Vermont Foliage Force is working to inform travelers that Vermont is still, and perhaps now more than ever, host to the most inspirational fall foliage experience.With the interstates and 85 percent of the state’s roads fully open, visitors can have the authentic Vermont foliage experience that Vermont is so very proud to provide.Visitors can support Vermont by keeping their travel plans; Vermonters can best support their state by helping communicate that we are open, the scenery is stunning as always, and yes, you can get here from there.A prime example of businesses collaborating to share the message that Vermont is moving forward is the series of first-person accounts the Vermont Chamber has collected: http://www.youtube.com/vermontchamber(link is external).Composed of representatives from the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Vermont Ski Areas Association, Vermont Agency of Transportation, Vermont Department of Forest Parks and Recreation, Vermont-based communications firms HMC2 and Hen House Media and state tourism officials, the Vermont Foliage Force will use a comprehensive communications campaign to highlight the accessibility of Vermont and that most areas of Vermont are ready to provide the inspirational foliage experience the state is known for.###
The Vermont Money Smart Child initiative was announced today’as school, State government, business and non-profit officials underscored the need for parents to actively teach their kids about money.Through a three-way partnership between the Vermont Jump$tart Coalition, State Treasurer’s Office, and People’s United Bank, the groundwork has been laid to reach more than 11,000 families with resources parents can use to instruct their children in personal finance. Fifty-seven elementary, middle school and high schools located throughout the state have requested copies of the booklet, ‘How to Raise a Money Smart Child’A Parent’s Guide.’ The schools will distribute the guides to parents this fall.‘It’s important for Vermont’s young people to have the knowledge and skills to manage their personal finances,’ said State Treasurer Beth Pearce. ‘Parents are the best resource to teach their children, but we know it can be difficult for them to begin these conversations because of the personal nature of family finances. Through this initiative, we hope parents will be motivated to share their money management skills and begin a successful dialogue for ongoing conversations about personal finance.’In addition to the distribution of the guide, the partnership will conduct six regional Money Smart Child parent workshops around the state. The free workshops will examine five core areas of financial education; explore how parents can use teachable moments; provide specific parent/child exercises in spending choices, budgeting, credit, and saving; and promote parents supporting one another in working with their children.‘People’s United Bank is committed to supporting programs and activities that enhance the quality of life for all of the local communities we serve,’ said People’s United BankVermont President Michael Seaver. ‘It’s critical that we help prepare the next generation to effectively manage their personal finances and this program will provide practical resources for parents to use in teaching their children.’The Money Smart Child initiative is underwritten by People’s United Bank. The 14-page guide was written by the national Jump$tart Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the financial literacy of pre-kindergarten through college-age youth by providing advocacy, research, standards and educational resources.‘While our Vermont coalition has worked for years with teachers and schools, this is the first project aimed specifically at assisting parents,’ explained Gregg Mousley, President of Vermont Jump$tart. ‘We are excited by the positive response we’ve received. Teachers routinely communicate to us about the need for more financial education for Vermont’s children. Engaging parents will help further the work that is already going on in our schools.’Today’s announcement was made at Colchester High School. Colchester is the location of one of the six regional workshops. Principal Amy Minor joined State Treasurer Beth Pearce, People’s United Bank Vermont President Michael Seaver, and Jump$tart President Gregg Mousley in answering financial questions from the approximately 50 students present for the announcement. The give-and-take discussion was aimed at modeling the kind of conversations the partnership hopes will be started between parents and their children through the Money Smart Child initiative.‘Colchester High School has offered students instruction in personal finance for 18 years,’ said Principal Amy Minor. ‘As a long-time educator, I know the important role parents play in teaching their children. We are so pleased to be able to distribute guides to our families and host one of the regional workshops.’Other regional workshops will be held in Swanton, Barre, St. Johnsbury, Salisbury, and Ludlow. The partnership will offer the workshops to other Vermont communities interested in hosting a parent event. Schools statewide were offered the opportunity to reserve guides for their families in early May. There are a limited number of printed guides remaining for schools that did not initially request the publication. Schools may contact Vermont Jump$tart via email at email@example.com(link sends e-mail). The guide, along with some of the workshop handouts, also are available for viewing on-line by going to the State Treasurer’s financial literacy web pages located at www.MoneyEd.Vermont.gov(link is external). State Treasurer’s Office. 9.15.2011
BISHCA, 9.20.2011 The Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities & Health Care Administration (BISHCA) has been awarded a three-year, $3.8 million grant from the federal Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). The grant is part of the ‘Affordable Care Act ‘ Rate Review Grant Program’ and was awarded through HHS’s Office of Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight. ‘We are extremely pleased to learn that we’ve been awarded this grant,’ said Commissioner Steve Kimbell. ‘Linking knowledgeable Vermont consumers to the health insurance rate setting process is an important tool in controlling health care costs. This grant is yet another example of the benefit to Vermont of President Obama’s health care reform legislation.’ BISHCA had applied for the funds to enhance the rate review process, ensuring greater transparency and access to affordable health insurance for Vermont residents. BISHCA will use these funds to develop filing standards for Third Party Administrators, post rate filings for public comment to its website and build the data and analytical structure to support a more comprehensive rate review process.US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Affordable Care Act grant awards of $3,804,045 to Vermont that will help fight unreasonable premium increases and protect consumers. HHS also released a new report entitled Rate Review Works detailing how previous rate review grants are fighting premium hikes and helping make the health insurance marketplace more transparent.As of September 1, 2011, the Affordable Care Act requires health insurers seeking to increase their rates by 10 percent or more in the individual and small group market to submit their request to experts to determine whether the rates are unreasonable. The Affordable Care Act also requires insurance companies to publicly justify unreasonable premium rate increases. These provisions will bring greater transparency, accountability, and, in many cases, lower costs for families and small business owners who struggle to afford coverage.‘We’re committed to fighting unreasonable premium increases and we know rate review works,’ said Secretary Sebelius. ‘States continue to have the primary responsibility for reviewing insurance rates and these grants give them more resources to hold insurance companies accountable.’The Affordable Care Act provides States with $250 million in Health Insurance Rate Review Grants, $48 million of which has previously been awarded to 42 States, the District of Columbia and five territories.As outlined in the new report, these grants and other State rate review efforts are already making a difference in Vermont. The state has used funds to further standardize its filing requirements. In an effort to expand their analysis of rates, the Insurance Division is conducting an extensive review of claims data. The State’s consumer website was also updated to include consumer-friendly rate summaries as well as a consumer comment capability.The grants awarded today help to create a more level playing field by improving how States review proposed health insurance rates and holding insurance companies accountable for disclosing information about unjustified rate increases.Vermont is proposing to use Cycle II grant funds in the following ways:Expand scope of rate review: Vermont will continue to review minor health insurance products of insurance and will continue to enhance the review rates in the large group market.Improve rate filing requirements: Vermont plans to continue the development of filing standards for individual and small group and will continue collecting relevant data and information from Third Party Administrators (TPAs).Improve transparency and consumer interfaces: Vermont will maintain and enhance its new rate review website, post filings within 5 days of receipt to encourage consumer comment, and use market research to support the State’s review of rate increases.Hire new staff: Vermont will create 2 new positions with Cycle II grant funding; these positions are in addition to the 1 position created with Cycle I resources.Improve IT: Vermont plans to build the data and analytical structure to support a more comprehensive rate review process with enhanced transparency, including the integration of hospital budget reviews in the rate review process.A summary of how each State will use the new resources can be found in the report released today.‘The proposals from the States overwhelmingly demonstrate the need, and desire, for new resources and tools to hold insurance companies accountable,’ said Steve Larsen, Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. ‘Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, States will have more of the tools they need to crack down on insurance companies that want to pass unreasonable premium hikes on to hard working families.’Information about significant State achievements with previous rate review grants can also be found in the report.Rate review builds on other provisions in the Affordable Care Act to help make health insurance more affordable for individuals, families, and businesses. Other steps the law takes to help make insurance more affordable include:Insurers are generally required to meet a medical loss ratio standard to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care and quality-improvement activities as opposed to overhead, advertising, and executive bonuses. Insurers that fail to meet that standard must either reduce premiums or pay rebates to consumers and employers;Small businesses are eligible for Federal tax credits of up to 35 percent of the cost of coverage for their workers. That amount rises to 50 percent by 2014; andIn 2014, the Affordable Insurance Exchanges will use competition and transparency, including information on excessive or unjustified premium increases, to help make insurance more affordable.The Affordable Care Act includes a variety of provisions designed to promote accountability, affordability, quality, and accessibility in the health care system for all Americans, and to make the health insurance market more consumer-friendly and transparent. Some of the provisions are already in effect, including prohibitions on pre-existing condition exclusions for children; prohibitions on lifetime dollar limits in all health plans; extended access to insurance for many young adults; and an unprecedented level of transparency about health insurance through www.HealthCare.gov(link is external).For the full Rate Review Works report, please visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/resources/reports/rate-review09202011a.pdf(link is external)For a fact sheet on the awards announced today, please visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/09/rate-review09202011a.html(link is external)