Senate committee looking at limiting mortgage tax deduction

MONTPELIER — A committee of the Vermont Senate this week is expected to complete work on a revenue bill that, among several other changes, would limit how much a homeowner could deduct for mortgage interest when filing state income taxes.
Finance Committee Chairman Tim Ashe says the committee is looking at a range of possible caps, from $10,000 to $15,000 in how much could be deducted from taxable income.
The Vermont real estate industry is complaining that the change could hurt middle-class homeowners and chill sales of homes. But Ashe says the typical Vermont homeowner pays $7,300 in mortgage interest and so would be under the cap.
Another notable change would remove the sales tax exemption from bottled water.

Killington pond skimming contest rocks the mountain

‘Eat More Kale’ artist to learn of fate vs. Chick-fil-A

MONTPELIER — A Vermont folk artist who built a T-shirt business around the term “eat more kale” says he’s expecting to learn more about his legal fight to protect the term in his fight with the fast food giant Chick-fil-A.
Bo Muller-Moore of Montpelier says he expects his lawyer to deliver the news to him Monday about a ruling by the U.S. Trademark office in the case.
The Chick-fil-A restaurant chain has argued Muller-Moore’s T-shirt infringes on its trademarked “eat mor chikin” slogan
The legal battle for the term prompted Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin to say in December 2011 the state would do all it could to help Muller-Moore in his battle with Chick-fil-A.
Muller-Moore says he’s is working on a movie about his fight with Chick-fil-A.

Is it spring yet? Mostly sunny today

Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo  A skier bravely shoots across the water during Killington Mountain's annual Pond Skimming event.

Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo
A skier bravely shoots across the water during Killington Mountain’s annual Pond Skimming event.

Great job to the Vermonters who represented us at Vermont Day in Fenway Park yesterday. Too bad the Sox couldn’t pull off at least the split from the day-night doubleheader, but they’ve been playing well lately - atop the AL East, when most people picked them as cellar dwellers. They might get there yet, but for now, I’m just enjoying the team.

And to the pond-skimmers: You guys are nuts, in a cool Vermonty way.

Sunny. Not as chilly. Highs 49-54. Light, variable wind becoming SE 5-15 mph.

Tonight: Mostly clear. Lows 28-34.  Light, variable wind in deeper valleys east of the Greens; light E-SE over higher, exposed terrain.
Tuesday: AM sunshine, then becoming mostly cloudy during the PM east of the Greens; partly to mostly sunny over and west of the Greens.  Highs 52-57. E-SE wind 5-15 mph.

Extended Forecast:
Tuesday Nt: Mostly cloudy Greens east, slight chance for a little drizzle. Variable clouds west of the Greens. Lows 35-40.
Wednesday: Becoming mostly sunny mid-late morning, then increasing clouds from mid-PM onward, slight chance for showers towards suppertime. Highs 63-68.
Wednesday Nt: Evening showers likely; partial clearing late. Lows 38-42.
Thursday: Partly sunny. Highs 55-60.
Thursday Nt: Partly cloudy. Lows 32-37.
Friday: Partly to mostly sunny. Highs 55-60.

Forecast Discussion:
Today is Earth Day.  And it’ll be a beauty!  Strong HIGH pressure near Caribou, Maine this morning will drift northeast to the vicinity of Prince Edward Island during the next 24 hours.  It’ll control the state’s weather through tomorrow night.  The crispy readings of early this morning-near record lows for some locations-will moderate markedly this afternoon under the influence of strong sunshine, and the northeastward departure of coldest air aloft. LOW pressure taking shape along a stationary front east of the Carolinas will throw some low-level moisture into eastern Vermont later Tuesday and Tuesday night, but the storm should pass far enough to our southeast to spare us the threat of any precipitation except for far southeast parts of the state, which may see some drizzle, particularly along the east-facing slopes of the southern Green Mountains.  But the next chance for significant rain won’t arise until Wednesday evening, when a strong cold front approaches.  At this time, it looks like a general .25-.75” rainfall is in store.

Sunny. Not as chilly. Highs 49-54. Light, variable wind becoming SE 5-15 mph.

Vermont settles campaign finance lawsuit with Dubie

MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell says the state has settled a campaign finance lawsuit against the Republican Governor’s Association and the losing GOP candidate in the 2010 election, Brian Dubie.
The settlement found the RGA and Dubie violated Vermont’s campaign finance laws by exceeding the $6,000 limit on contributions from PACs to candidates.
The RGA is going to pay a civil penalty of $30,000. Dubie will pay a civil penalty of $10,000 and make a contribution of $10,000 to the Vermont Foodbank.
The state’s 2011 complaint determined the Dubie campaign shared confidential polling data with the RGA that led to media expenditures that were not reported as campaign donations.
The attorney general’s office filed suit after receiving a complaint from the Vermont Democratic Party on Oct. 21, 2010.

Boston cab stopped on I-89 not connected to bombings, police say

WILLISTON – A cab from Boston that was driving slowly up Interstate 89 through Vermont on Friday morning aroused some suspicions but Vermont State Police who stopped it said nothing turned out to be amiss.
       “We got a call from a motorist traveling north on I-89 in the Sharon area who reported seeing a Boston cab traveling 40-to-45 miles an hour in the passing lane and, given what’s going on right now (in Boston), they called it in,” Captain Glenn Hall of the Williston State Police Barracks explained.
       “We came in contact with that cab up in the Williston area.  We spoke with the driver and there is no indication of any connection,” to the massive manhunt underway in the Boston area overnight for suspects involved in Monday’s bombing of the crowd watching the Boston Marathon, Captain Hall said.
       The cab had apparently picked up a fare at Logan Airport and driven them to the Burlington area and was already heading south back down Interstate 89 when police pulled it over shortly before 8 a.m., letting the driver continue on his way after a short conversation with police.
       Captain Hall and another Homeland Security official said Friday morning that so far there have been no alerts to Vermont authorities indicating that anyone related to the bombings might be headed this way.
       “We hadn’t gotten any information beforehand to be on the lookout for anything (like a cab) but obviously with what is going on we are vigilant,” Captain Hall said, adding, “We will certainly check out anything that people call in as suspicious.”

Man pleads guilty in film fraud case

RUTLAND — A man has pleaded guilty in Vermont federal court to charges connected to a scheme to defraud hundreds of investors in a movie.
Louis Soteriou of Middlebury, Conn., pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal in Rutland on Thursday to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
The Burlington Free Press reports ( prosecutors agreed to drop 16 other counts against him.
Prosecutors said people invested $28 million in the film, called “Birth of Innocence.” They said Soteriou had partnered with Vermont filmmaker Malcolm “Mac” Parker on the deal.
Parker, of Addison, was in court Thursday. Last year, he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to commit wire fraud and filing a false tax document. He awaits sentencing.

Vt. lawmakers hear of man’s Taser death

By DAVE GRAM | The Associated Press
MONTPELIER — The loved ones of a man who died in a confrontation with Vermont state police last year pleaded Wednesday for stronger controls for the use of stun guns by police, saying he would be alive today if he’d had access to his mental health counselor.

The mother and partner of Macadam Mason testified before the state House Government Operations Committee on a bill that would set new training requirements for the use of stun guns by Vermont’s police.

Mason was stunned in the chest with a Taser last June and died after he became distraught and called a crisis line saying he might be a danger to himself or others.

Rhonda Taylor said her son had a seizure disorder as the result of a traffic accident as a teen and was likely unable to comply with a responding trooper’s order to lie on the ground. Mason’s partner, Theresa Davidonis, told lawmakers the troopers ignored her repeated warnings that Mason had just had a seizure the night before and a stun gun could kill him.

Taylor said in an interview she was “asking for more training for the officers, and (that) they don’t just pull this Taser out and shoot someone like it’s a toy. It’s not a toy.” She said she believed the mental health counselor who worked with her son could have talked him down from an agitated state.

Several of those testifying at Wednesday’s hearing said they would like to see the bill go further, to bar use of Tasers by police outright.
One man, Warren Town Constable Gene Bifano, urged committee members to “trust your police” and not restrict the user of Tasers. He said the weapons can be important tools for reducing the potential violence in a situation.

Others disagreed.

“Clearly we’re all here because this is a very dangerous weapon,” said Montpelier lawyer Jeff Dworkin, who chaired a city committee two years ago that recommended against providing the stun guns to officers in the capital. The city manager and police chief withdrew their request for the weapons the day the City Council was to vote on them.

Taylor, an intensive care nurse who lives in Moultonborough, N.H., said she had been informed of her son’s crisis but had been unable to respond to Thetford, a drive of more than two hours, before he was killed.
Davidonis said she tried several times to keep the confrontation from escalating but the trooper “looked at me and turned back to Macadam and shot him in the chest,” she said.

“His eyes rolled back in his head,” she said. “He just fell on the ground and he was dead.”

A New Hampshire medical examiner concluded Mason died a “sudden cardiac death” due to electric shock. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell concluded the trooper was justified in using the stun gun.

Town gets $250k for sidewalks

PUTNEY — The Vermont town of Putney is getting $250,000 for sidewalk improvements after years of discussions.
The town is receiving the funds from the Agency of Transportation for the project, which seeks to extend a walkway up Route 5 toward Landmark College.
Earlier this year, Putney completed a four-year project to upgrade about a mile of sidewalk from Town Hall to the Putney Co-op.
The Brattleboro Reformer reports ( a state-sponsored park and ride also has been approved for the town.
Town Manager Cynthia Stoddard said the projects, located on the south and north ends of the village, will make it safer and easier to cut down on automobile use. Work on both could start within the next two years.

House to hear GMO labeling testimony

MONTPELIER — A Vermont House committee is taking testimony on a bill that would require the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified ingredients.
The bill, which excludes dairy products, cleared the House Agriculture Committee last month. The Judiciary Committee is taking testimony on it on Thursday, from legislative counsel and state attorney general’s office.
Even if the bill becomes law, supporters expect it to be challenged in court by the biotech industry, as the state attorney general’s office has warned.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says about 17 other states are considering some sort of GMO labeling legislation.