31 Dec

IBM receives award for ‘Free Cooling’ project, saves $700,000

first_imgGlobalFoundries,IBM in Vermont has received the “Best Overall Energy Project in New England Award” from the New England Chapter of the Association of Energy Engineers. IBM was recognized for its ‘Free Cooling Project,’ which makes use of outside winter air to produce air conditioning for its semiconductor manufacturing and related operations that require cooling year-round. The process reduces IBM’s use of both electricity and water, and saves the company up to $700,000 annually.  The IBM Vermont semiconductor manufacturing and development site covers 3.5 million square feet and uses more than 400,000,000 kilowatts of electricity each year. A significant portion of that energy is required to cool the temperature of its manufacturing facility. The Free Cooling process eliminates the need to operate for up to three, 2000-ton chillers by using the cold Vermont winter air to create the chilled water for the IBM’s air conditioning system.   The Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) is a source for information and networking in the fields of energy management, renewable and alternative energy, power generation, energy services and sustainability. IBM Microelectronics  2.21.2012last_img read more

31 Dec

Digger Tidbits: Shumlin puts Sorrell on hold; rep seeks legislative say in utility merger; Romney endorsed

first_imgby vtdigger.org Attorney General Bill Sorrell is running for re-election this fall, but his main man in office (Governor Peter Shumlin) is holding off on endorsing a candidate until after Labor Day.When asked at his weekly press conference whether he would endorse Sorrell, Shumlin paused for a few seconds, then said, ‘The attorney general is doing a great job for Vermont. I’m not going to get involved in electoral politics until past the filing date in any of the offices statewide in Vermont to see whether or not anyone â ¦ There are other people seeking those offices, so we’ll have plenty of time for politics after Labor Day so we’ll discuss it then.’Sorrell currently has no official opponent, but prominent figures like Sen. Vince Illuzzi, R-Essex-Orleans; Speaker of the House Shap Smith and Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan are all rumored to be mulling taking up the challenge.Sorrell, who was appointed by Gov. Howard Dean in 1997, has seen attacks from critics who point to two recent losses in the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal district court loss in the high-profile Vermont Yankee case.While Shumlin has defended Sorrell throughout the process of deciding whether to appeal the Yankee decision, his lack of endorsement opens the door for much speculation.~ Alan PanebakerBill would require legislative approval of utility mergerWith the merger of the state’s two largest utilities up in the air, one Democrat is pushing an amendment that would require legislative approval for such an arrangement ‘ which currently only requires a nod from the Vermont Public Service Board.Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, entered an amendment into an obscure housekeeping bill that would allow the Legislature to get into the pending proceeding as the board considers a merger between Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service. It would also, Browning said, require legislative approval if, in the future, the new Green Mountain Power, which would control about three-quarters of the state’s electricity, bought another smaller utility.Browning introduced another amendment that would require Central Vermont Public Service to pay ratepayers back in cash for a windfall that occurred in the early 2000s rather than by creating an efficiency program as the utilities propose.While some may be concerned that meddling in the Public Service Board process smacks of the kind of thing the Legislature tried with Vermont Yankee (a court case is pending in a federal appeals court), Browning said she doesn’t know why the state would be OK with getting involved then but not now when a federal law would not pre-empt legislative action.The main motivation, Browning said, is to strengthen the Public Service Board’s hand.‘I’m concerned, given the nature of Green Mountain Power’s offer, which really tries to shift the cost of the merger onto the Vermont ratepayers and keep the benefits themselves,’ she said. ‘I’m concerned the Public Service Board won’t be able to push back against that enough.’~ Alan PanebakerVermont Republicans endorse RomneyVermonters casting ballots on Town Meeting Day will have the opportunity to weigh in on the national presidential primary race, and some local Republicans are pushing for them to back Mitt Romney.Prominent Republicans like Sens. Vince Illuzzi and Randy Brock spoke in favor of the former Massachusetts governor at a press conference Wednesday.Vermont is one of 10 states that will cast ballots on ‘Super Tuesday.’Illuzzi said he thinks Romney has struck a balance between conservative values and the need to help struggling Americans.‘He really has balanced Republican goals which he has so well articulated through his campaign as well as being sensitive to those in the country who are in need of a helping hand,’ Illuzzi said.Former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu lent a hand to Republicans in endorsing Romney.‘We’ve got to keep our eyes on prize,’ he said. ‘The prize is making sure that in November America replaces an administration that has moved the country in absolutely the wrong direction under President Obama and replaces that presidency and that administration with a Republican leader who has the experience, the capacity, the discipline, the will and the commitment to make the hard decisions to undo the mess we have developed within our country over the last four years.’Bob Stannard, founder of the Montpelier-based Super PAC Americans for a Better Tomorrow Today fired back a response to the Romney endorsement. Stannard’s political action committee claims to endorse candidates who address issues brought to light by the Occupy Wall Street movement like income inequality.Stannard said Sununu’s attack on Obama is off base.‘I heard former Governor Sununu make a statement that Obama’s been bringing the country in the wrong direction,’ Stannard said. ‘I would argue that what Obama’s been trying to do is pull back from the wrong direction that we were led down by the previous president that created the morass we have found ourselves in for the last four years.’The group produced a video that addresses current tax policy and the effects of the Bush era tax cuts, which Romney supports and, Stannard said, personally benefits from.~ Alan PanebakerTowns to consider corporate personhood resolutionsOn Town Meeting Day at least 50 Vermont communities will consider resolutions urging Congress to pass a resolution for a constitutional amendment banning corporate personhood. The list features some of the largest municipalities in the state, including Brattleboro, Burlington, Montpelier, Rutland, Williston, South Burlington and Winooski.According to The Rutland Herald, 50 communities have developed some form of resolution in response to the Supreme Court Citizens United case. They include Albany, Barnet, Brattleboro, Bristol, Burlington, Calais, Charlotte, Chester, Chittenden, Craftsbury, East Montpelier, Fayston, Fletcher, Greensboro, Hardwick, Hinesburg, Jericho, Lincoln, Marlboro, Marshfield, Monkton, Montgomery, Montpelier, Moretown, Mount Holly, Norwich, Plainfield, Putney, Richmond, Ripton, Roxbury, Rutland City and Town, Sharon, Shrewsbury, South Burlington, Starksboro, Sudbury, Thetford Center, Tunbridge, Waitsfield, Walden, Waltham, Warren, Williamstown, Windsor, Winooski, Woodbury, Woodstock, Worcester, and Williston.~ Greg GumaFree Speech TV gets channel on Burlington basic cableBurlington Telecom is adding Free Speech TV to its basic cable line up. On March 1 it becomes Channel 122 for thousands of subscribers. Although FSTV already reaches more than 37 million people via satellite and DIRECTV, this will be its first US appearance on a basic cable line up.It wasn’t a certainty until the last day, February 29, when a Kickstarter fundraising campaign finished raising almost $3,000 in less than a week.To insure carriage on the basic tier received by all cable subscribers, FSTV and its supporters agreed to raise $10,000 to cover some start-up costs by the end of February. A Friends of Free Speech TV group was organized by local BT subscribers, a $5,000 match was offered, and the rest was raised in the final days of the month.If the goal hadn’t been reached, the match would have been lost and the basic cable deal might be jeopardized.FSTV airs Democracy Now! three times daily, covers cutting-edge current affairs, and airs a wide variety of independently-produced documentaries that otherwise might not be aired. A daily talk show hosted by Thom Hartmann features’Brunch with Bernie,’ a Friday noon discussion and call-in segment with Vermont’s Independent US senator.The mission of FSTV is to ‘inspire viewers to become civically engaged to build a more just, equitable, and sustainable society,’ says Greg Epler-Wood, a former member of BT’s Community Advisory Council and member of Friends of FSTV.- Greg GumaVDP communications director leavesAlicia Alessandro, communications director for the Vermont Democratic Party, parted ways with party officials last Friday. Her departure was amicable, according to sources. Allesandro, who came from Washington, D.C., was hired last summer. Her highly partisan press releases ‘ particularly one about GOP candidate for governor Randy Brock ‘ raised eyebrows, though sources say there wasn’t anything in particular that precipitated the party’s decision to let her go. The move comes as the Burlington mayoral race nears an end. vtdigger.org 2.29.2012last_img read more

31 Dec

Senate Finance raises tobacco tax by 80 cents, restores cloud moratorium

first_imgby Anne Galloway May 7, 2013 vtdigger.org In a 7-0 voice vote on Tuesday, a Vermont Senate panel approved an 80 cent tobacco tax increase. Lawmakers initially considered a $1.25 placeholder tax that Sen. Tim Ashe, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, described as a health care bill not a tax measure.Advocates say the tipping point for smokers who are having trouble kicking the habit is a 10 percent increase, and 80 cents is roughly that percentage. The tax increase would also apply to snuff.The hike was added to H.107, a health care insurance bill that includes provisions regarding the states new health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act.The House approved a 50-cent-per-pack additional tax on cigarettes in the miscellaneous tax bill.Its not clear at this point how the tax conference will resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions of the tobacco tax. The miscellaneous tax bill passed both the House and Senate; the health insurance bill has yet to be approved by the Senate.Ashe has said the tax is designed to curb tobacco use, and so it is more appropriate to attach it to a health care bill. Though it would generate roughly $8 million for the state in additional revenue, he says the impetus for pursuing the assessment is related to encourage healthier behavior its not just about raising money.Gov. Peter Shumlin is opposed to any increase in the tobacco tax. He says its too soon to raise the tobacco tax; the state passed a 38-cent hike two years ago.The panel also restored a moratorium on the cloud tax that extends gives software companies a 10-year pass on the sales tax. The moratorium provision begins in 2006 and ends in 2016, effectively extending retroactive forgiveness to companies that could be subject to the 6 percent assessment.last_img read more

31 Dec

Use restrictions recommended for Lake St Catherine following milfoil treatment

first_imgThe application of the chemical herbicide triclopyr is scheduled for Lake St. Catherine on Monday, June 17 to control the aquatic invasive plant Eurasian Watermilfoil, Myriophyllum spicatum, in selectively chosen dense beds around the lakeshore. Local residents and recreational users have been informed of this planned herbicide application, authorized by the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Aquatic Nuisance Control Program. As a precautionary measure, under advice from the Vermont Department of Health, the public is strongly encouraged to avoid unnecessary exposure. Please follow the voluntary use restrictions for Lily Pond, Lake St. Catherine, Little Lake and the outlet stream to North Road: ·         No use of the water for any purpose during the day  of treatment and the following day (June 17 & 18)·         No use of the water for drinking, or for food and drink preparation until further notice·         No use of the water for recreation (swimming, boating, fishing) until the third day after treatment (June 19)·         Domestic uses, other than for drinking, or for food or drink preparation, may resume the third day after treatment (June 19)·         No use of water for irrigation until October 15 or until further notice Triclopyr is a highly effective broadleaf herbicide that is used to control Eurasian Watermilfoil. It is most effective when applied in the late spring while Eurasian Watermilfoil is growing. Eurasian Watermilfoil threatens the natural lake environment by severely reducing native plant diversity, which adversely affects aquatic habitat. Commonly found in shallow bays and along the shoreline, dense mats of Eurasian milfoil often render other recreational activity such as boating and swimming impossible. The displacement of native aquatic plants has been reported in lakes throughout Vermont where Eurasian Watermilfoil has become widespread and dense. Native plants are not significantly affected by this herbicide. The use of herbicide is an integral part of a lake-wide management plan, which includes manual and mechanical techniques, to control this invasive plant. Contact the Lake St. Catherine Association at 518-505-2195 or visit its webpage at www.lakestcatherine.org(link is external) for updates or further information. Visit Vermont’s Aquatic Nuisance Control Program webpage at: http://www.anr.state.vt.us/dec/waterq/permits/htm/pm_anc.htm(link is external) for more information about Eurasian Watermilfoil and other aquatic invasives in Vermont.last_img read more

31 Dec

Revision wins contract to supply US DOD with 90,000 combat helmets, 43 jobs for Newport

first_imgRevision Military Ltd,Revision Military, a world leader in protective soldier solutions,’ wins a contract to supply the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) – Troop Support, ‘ with 90,000 Advanced Combat Helmets (ACH). One of only two qualified and approved suppliers for the current ACH, Revision expects this $21 million award to bring 43 jobs back to Newport, Vermont, where the helmets are manufactured.‘Revision is proud to answer the U.S. Military’s call for an additional 90,000 ACH helmets,’ says Jonathan Blanshay, CEO of Revision. ‘We’re a proven and dependable supplier having delivered over a million helmets from the Newport manufacturing facility. In addition to leveraging existing manufacturing technologies to deliver head protective solutions for today’like the ACH’we’re also shaping the future of soldier protection with innovative composite materials, new manufacturing processes and integrated designs. In addition to this contract, Revision was recently selected as a development partner for the U.S. Army’s Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) which promises to become the Army’s next widely-fielded head protection system. We couldn’t be prouder of these two accomplishments’for the company and for our employees.’Vermont Senator Leahy, a longtime supporter of Revision’s commitment to bringing business to the state said, ‘I’m proud of the key role that Vermonters have taken in making protection systems for our troops.’  Vermont is becoming known for this manufacturing specialty, for good reasons. ‘ Since we first began talking about Revision coming to Newport, they have been a dedicated corporate citizen. ‘ With this contract Vermonters will continue to have access to good quality manufacturing jobs, and our men and women in the field will continue to have access to good quality protection in the field.’The contract with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is to be delivered during 2014 and 2015. ‘ If this development is coupled with selection of Revision to proceed as a development partner for the Integrated Head Protection System (IHPS) next generation helmet in future phases, Leahy expects the presence of helmet manufacturing work to be secured in Newport for the next several years, despite overall reductions in defense spending.Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and of its Defense Subcommittee, which handles the Senate’s work in writing the annual defense budget bills.’  He has long supported Revision’s cutting-edge work on soldier protective systems such as protective eyewear.’  Leahy’s matchmaking efforts with Revision and Defense Department agencies, buttressed by the funding he has secured through his work on the Appropriations Committee, have given the firm the chance to prove its technology, earn its superb reputation for quality and innovation, and build strong links to potential customers.Under this contract, Revision will deliver 90,000 additional helmets to DLA for use throughout the Department of Defense from its line of ballistic helmets that include models for law enforcement agencies and first responders. ‘ Revision won the larger of two contracts awarded by DLA because of its ability to provide a high-quality timely and cost-effective solution to an anticipated gap in protective headware in 2014 and 2015.Since acquiring the Newport-based helmet manufacturing facility in 2012, Revision has fulfilled a number of large-scale U.S. and international military helmet orders, including a previous contract with the DLA for 90,000 units. This facility also produces ballistic helmets for the company’s law enforcement and first responder customers. In addition to Revision’s Newport location, helmets and head subsystems are also manufactured at the Revision Composite Center of Excellence, located in Montreal, Canada.ABOUT REVISIONRevision develops and delivers purpose-built protective soldier equipment for military use worldwide. The company, which began with eyewear, has expanded to face, head and torso protection and continues to develop innovative capabilities for integrated, performance-enhancing soldier systems. To that end, Revision brings together the most advanced expertise, state-of-the-art facilities and finest technical minds. Privately owned and ISO 9001:2008 certified, Revision’s operational headquarters is located in Essex Junction, Vermont, USA, with additional offices in Luxembourg and Canada. For more information, visit www.revisionmilitary.com(link is external).Essex Junction, VT, USA (January 13, 2014) -’ Revision Military‘last_img read more

31 Dec

UVM educational farm expands learning opportunities for students

first_imgUniversity of Vermont,Related Company: University of VermontA new farming education endeavor at the University of Vermont will give students the opportunity to learn about sustainable farm practices, contribute to the local food system and help support research needs of the university.Catamount Educational Farm in South Burlington will offer an extensive hands-on farm experience for post-traditional, undergraduate and high school students. Produce grown at the farm will be sold to select outlets within the UVM community, including University Dining Services, and be available at the UVM farm stand and through a CSA.Catamount Educational Farm is located at the UVM Horticulture Research and Education Center (HREC) on land that has been owned by the university for more than 60 years. After three successful years of the UVM Farmer Training Program managing three acres of vegetables at the HREC, UVM Continuing and Distance Education and the UVM College of Agriculture and Life Sciences created the Catamount Educational Farm by designating 13 acres for specialty crop production and academic programs.“The establishment of Catamount Farm will allow UVM to provide a dedicated, hands-on learning environment for students seeking diverse farming and management skills on a well-managed, productive farm,” said HREC Director Terence Bradshaw. “Since its purchase in 1952, the mission and vision for the ‘Hort Farm’ has been to provide research, education and outreach. Catamount Farm fulfills that mission and effectively moves UVM’s local food system efforts to the next level.”Catamount Educational Farm consists of five acres of diverse vegetables and eight acres of apples and grapes. The farm will continue to be home to the UVM Farmer Training Program for post-traditional students, as well as offer new courses such as the Sustainable Farm Practicum for undergraduate students and the Introduction to Sustainable Vegetable Farming for high school students.“Catamount Farm will provide a dynamic environment for immersive, experiential and relevant programs,” said Susie Walsh Daloz, who develops sustainable farm programming for UVM. “The expanded farm also allows us to reach a wide range of students, who now have the incredible opportunity to study sustainable farming while producing food for the UVM community.”Students will be integral to carrying out all activities of the farm, providing them with real and diverse sustainable farm management skills. “What’s unique and valuable at Catamount Farm is that production and education will go hand-in-hand,” said Laura Williams, manager of Catamount Farm. “Catamount Farm is so much more than a demonstration farm, and that’s what makes us remarkably different.”Source: UVM. 3.18.2014 For more information about Catamount Educational Farm, visit learn.uvm.edu/catamountfarm.last_img read more

31 Dec

LCC Week 10 blue-green algae reports

first_imgby the Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) This week’s heat wave brought with it numerous reports of blue-green algae blooms. St Albans Bay and Missisquoi Bay were hit the hardest but blooms also showed up in the northern part of the Main Lake, the Alburgh Passage, and on Lake Carmi. With few exceptions, waters generally remained clear from the Islands south. Thursday’s (8/20) high winds may have moved scums around and changed conditions but cyanobacteria will be present for some weeks yet. Anyone on the water and shorelines, particularly in Missisquoi Bay and St Albans Bay should be on the lookout and avoid contact with blooms. Algae conditions can vary widely over short time frames and short distances. Some blooms persist for days while others pop up and disappear within a span of hours. Blooms are pushed by prevailing winds, leading to denser shoreline accumulations downwind.If you see or suspect a bloom:Report it to the Lake Champlain Committee using our online form(link is external). Click here for how to assess conditions(link is external).Avoid contact with the water in the area of the bloom.If you’ve been in contact with a bloom, rinse and shower thoroughly as soon as possible.Keep people (especially children) and pets out of the water.Do not drink untreated lake water. If you suspect a bloom near your intake, don’t drink, cook or shower with the water. Boiling water does not destroy toxins.See a doctor if someone gets ill after exposure to an algae bloom and report algae-related illnesses to the health department.Please help share information about blue-green algae. Here are links to two useful fact sheets to pass on to help spread the word:Blue-green algae fact sheet(link is external)Fact sheet for Veterinarians and dog owners(link is external)A reminder to Vermonters that there are important public meetings coming up next week where you can weigh in on water. See the Take Action section below for further details. Please help shape the regulatory actions and policy to safeguard and restore our waterways.Source: LCC 8.21.2015last_img read more

31 Dec

NBT acquires Third Party Administrators, Inc in NH

first_imgNBT Bank,Vermont Business Magazine NBT Bank, based in New York with branches in Vermont, announced today that it has acquired Third Party Administrators, Inc, a retirement plan services company located in Bedford, NH. The business provides administrative services for 401(k), profit sharing and defined benefit plans for over 700 businesses as well as Section 125 administration. TPA, Inc will operate as a stand-alone business, retaining its staff, business name and location. Neil Tullis will continue in his role as president of TPA, Inc.“We’re very excited about this new partnership,” said NBT Bank Wealth Management President Timothy Brenner. “TPA, Inc. has a stellar reputation in the industry, and the services they offer are a great complement to the retirement plan services offered by our Wealth Management Division and the 401(k) recordkeeping services offered by our sister company, EPIC Advisors, Inc. Our commitment to TPA, Inc.’s employees, clients and advisory relationships is strong, and we look forward to collaborating with them in the future.”TPA, Inc. President Neil Tullis added, “This is an exciting opportunity for our company as it provides our team with the opportunity to focus on delivering our core services to our clients and continuing our strong growth rate. We look forward to building upon our past successes, increasing our referral network and accelerating our organic growth.”About Third Party Administrators, Inc.Third Party Administrators is located in Bedford, N.H. with 23 employees and assets under administration of over $850 million. TPA, Inc. provides retirement plan services and Section 125 Administration, including plan design, consulting services, compliance and other administrative services. More information about TPA, Inc. can be found online at: www.tpainc.net(link is external)About NBT BankNBT Bank, N.A. is a full-service bank with a network of over 155 banking locations in six states, including five locations in southern New Hampshire. NBT Bank and its parent company, NBT Bancorp Inc., are headquartered in Norwich, N.Y. NBT Bancorp had assets of $8.1 billion as of June 30, 2015, and is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the symbol NBTB. EPIC Advisors, Inc. is a subsidiary of NBT Bancorp and a full-service 401(k) recordkeeping firm based in Rochester, N.Y. More information about NBT Bank, NBT Bancorp and EPIC Advisors can be found online at: www.nbtbank.com(link is external), www.nbtbancorp.com(link is external) and www.epic1st.com(link is external)last_img read more

31 Dec

Smith: Thinking ahead in health care

first_imgby Mike Smith Nowadays, participants subjecting themselves to arduous military training are asked to swallow a capsule so medical personnel can continuously monitor their vital signs from afar. In some respects this capsule represents how technology will drive the design of our health care system in the future. No doubt these technological advances will significantly change our current health care delivery model, but they also have the potential to make health care more affordable and accessible, while maintaining quality.Currently, state officials in Vermont are moving in a direction of changing how providers are reimbursed for the care they provide from the current fee-for-service system—where providers are paid, or reimbursed for each service—to one where they would receive a global budget and be required to manage the health of their population to that budget number.Obviously changing the reimbursement system is a very complex maneuver. New management entities are being created such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) that will attempt to centralize billing, payment, and health data. Health care institutions are also being asked to make organizational and operational changes that focus more on preventive care. These changes pose significant challenges.The first challenge is demonstrating that the new reimbursement system can be implemented effectively and efficiently. State government has not proven itself capable of implementing new and complex health care systems – and no one wants another expensive health care mess like Vermont Health Connect.Secondly, will disruption of the current system—by changing the payment method to health care providers—produce the desired outcomes? Disruption will be tolerated if the outcome is positive, transformative, and measurable. It is not clear that the all-payer model will meet the expectations of the large majority of medical consumers. It is quite probable the savings will not be significant enough to satisfy the serious concerns of Vermonters about their growing health care costs.Additionally, there are risks to local health care organizations. Vermonters are incredibly loyal to their local hospital and providers – their first concern will be how this change impacts the viability of their local health network and the economic impact of health care jobs in their communities.Vermont currently relies heavily on two large and dominant systems—the University of Vermont Health Network and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center—to meet its health care needs. Our state only has regulatory authority over Vermont health care institutions and practices. Dartmouth falls under the regulatory purview of the State of New Hampshire. These two institutions have been expanding to maintain their status and financial viability. On the other hand, the rest of the delivery system is made up of smaller hospitals and independent practices fighting for relevance and struggling to preserve their place and scope of services in an era of accelerated consolidation. When you have this sort of dominance by much larger institutions, the system as a whole is vulnerable to the business interests of the two dominant players. These two players are becoming “too big to fail,” even if they become too big to be efficient in the future.But, if you’re a fan of your smaller, local hospital and provider, it should be noted that the larger institutions don’t hold all the cards. Although regulators seem to favor the larger institutions, these institutions don’t enjoy the same intense loyalty many of the smaller, local hospitals and independent physician groups do. And the larger institutions certainly don’t enjoy the same political good will as smaller medical providers.Part of the challenge that large institutions have is related to their sheer size and their multi-state footprints. UVM Health Network’s recent growth is primarily in New York. And UVM Medical Center does need to be large enough to be a well respected and sought after academic, research and acute care facility. But you can’t chalk it all up to size, some of it is being out of touch – or at least not knowing how much it really takes to be in touch with the communities they serve. The smaller health care providers are much more adept at being connected with their communities and as a result, building loyalties.UVM Medical Center cites national statistics and a recent report showing that they deliver high quality health care while controlling costs. These are good measures, no doubt. Still, some—especially local influencers—view them as arrogant and overly bureaucratic. Certainly, awarding high-salaried administrators hefty bonuses at a time when frontline nurses were getting paltry salary increases doesn’t help in this perception. The nurses’ union may be more at fault than management in agreeing to these recent contracts; nonetheless the appearance is that UVM Medical Center’s cost savings are achieved on the backs of staff at the hospital, while upper management is very richly rewarded. And surprisingly, they have done little to dissuade anyone of this notion.So, how do we make transformative change where access and quality is enhanced and cost is reduced? By looking past the payment phase of this medical evolution and ensuring the system is prepared to adapt to the new realities of a future technology based system. Players of the game of chess know that often one has to think beyond the next move and place equal focus on critical moves in the future in order to win. With technology this ability to look far down the road is critical.What advances in technology have shown—particularly in other industries—is that innovation and efficiency can level the playing field, much in the same way that it did in telecommunications. No longer is the Bell System the dominant player it once was in the telecommunications industry: smaller entities, even upstarts, now have the ability to compete. This brave new world in health care has the potential of lowering costs, reducing administrative bureaucracies, advancing innovation, diversifying options – and protecting our cherished local providers and caregivers.Just as the game of chess requires forward thinking to be successful so too must government anticipate critical future moves that invite this technological transformation. This will require state officials to avoid being singularly focused on changes to the health care system that may not meet the affordability concerns of the medical consumer.Mike Smith was ecretary of administration and secretary of human services under former Gov. Jim Douglas. He is the host of the radio program, “Open Mike with Mike Smith,” on WDEV 550 AM and 96.1, 96.5 and 101.9 FM. He is also a political analyst for WCAX-TV and WVMT radio and is a regular contributor to the Times Argus, Rutland Herald and Vermont Business Magazine. His spouse is a nurse at UVM Medical Center.last_img read more

31 Dec

VBSR: ‘Ban the Box’ is good for employment

first_img“Either we stop using fossil fuels when we run out, and we’re forced to move to 100% renewable energy, or we move to 100% renewables before we’ve used up all the coal, gas and oil,” Kleppner said. “In other words, either we put the maximum possible amount of carbon into the air, or we only put part of the carbon into the air and we leave some of it in the ground. Humanity’s future security and prosperity are directly proportional to how much we leave in the ground.” While Vermont lawmakers are not expected to vote on a bill establishing a tax on carbon pollution this year, the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee has continued taking testimony on the topic – including last week when two VBSR members expressed support for the proposal.Danforth Pewter CEO Bram KleppnerDanforth Pewter CEO Bram Kleppner detailed the steps that Danforth Pewter has taken to reduce it’s energy usage and rely more of renewable energy. He said climate change is the largest looming threat to Vermont’s economy and communities. Read Kleppner’s testimony.(link is external) “In addition to those specific benefits for low-income Vermonters, our constituents will also benefit from the investments an Energy Independence Fund could make in moving Vermont toward a multi-modal transportation system with investments in walking, biking, and public transportation options,” he said. Energy Siting, Worker Classification, Pot Among Top State House IssuesSession has between 4-6 weeks left. Lawmakers got a tour last week of the recent weatherization work done at the Vermont State House by Efficiency Vermont. This location is directly below the Golden Dome of the historic building.The 2016 legislative session is expected to wrap-up sometime between late April and mid-May this year, depending on who you ask at the State House. This adjournment deadline puts pressure on lawmakers as they advance key legislation with the aim of getting a bill to the Governor for his signature – or waiting until next January and the return of a new Legislature. Here is where some of the State House’s biggest bills are at this point in the session.Energy Siting: The Vermont Senate voted 22-3 late last week on a controversial bill that gives municipalities more say in the process of siting energy projects in their communities. The proposal faces an unknown fate in the Vermont House.Worker Classification: House lawmakers continued to struggle over a bill that changes the definitions and tests used to determine who is an employee and who is an independent contractor in Vermont. H.867(link is external) was approved by the House Commerce Committee 11-0 last month, but was quickly moved to the House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee for further review. Floor action was delayed for a second time last week as the House Commerce Committee reviews possible amendments to the legislation. Misclassification of employees as independent contractors has long been a concern for VBSR members. What are your thoughts on this proposal? Send an e-mail to VBSR Public Policy Manager Daniel Barlow(link sends e-mail). Marijuana Regulation: The Vermont Senate approved a bill legalizing, regulating, and taxing the sale of marijuana earlier this year and now House lawmakers are reviewing the proposal. More than 50 people attended a public hearing at the State House last week before the House Judiciary and Government Operations committees – mostly in support of the bill. Still, House leadership has not committed to passing the proposal this year and some lawmakers say they may need more time – such as the next legislative session – to work out all the nuances of the bill. Dan Hoxworth, the executive director at Capstone Community Action.Dan Hoxworth, the executive director of Capstone Community Action, a non-profit organization that assists low-income Vermonters, also testified in support of a carbon pollution tax. Hoxworth said that climate change is a major threat to low-income Vermonters and that any plan would need to ensure that this population sees financial relief – through a rebate program – on a regular cycle. The investments in weatherization made possible through part of the revenue raised with the tax will also be a huge boost to the state’s efforts to meet it’s home weatherization goals. Read Hoxworth’s testimony.(link is external) Vermont Business Magazine VBSR members came out in strong support for H261 last week. The Ban the Box bill is now under consideration by the Senate Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs Committee. The bill eliminates the criminal history question on job applications for most jobs – allowing prospective hires to explain their past convictions and the steps they’ve taken to rebuild their lives. Employers can still conduct background checks and ask about criminal records during job interviews.​Heather Wright, an employment attorney with WrightJones PLC. VBSR photosRuss Bennett, the owner of Northland Design & Construction and the chair of VBSR’s Public Policy Committee, testified that a conviction in a person’s past should not be a life sentence of poverty for themselves and their family. His company does not have the box on their employment forms, he said, and he’s seen first-hand how a second chance through a good job can change a person’s life.Heather Wright, an employment attorney with WrightJones PLC, told the committee that the bill as passed by the Vermont House last month would not be a burden for employers to implement. One of the advantages of the current bill is it’s simplicity, she said, as it can be explained to an employer in a matter of seconds. Chris Miller, the activism manager at Ben & Jerry’s Ice CreamChris Miller, the activism manager at Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and the vice-chair of VBSR’s Board of Directors, told the committee that the ice cream company and Unilever, their parent company, have already banned the box from their job applications.Read Chris Miller’s testimony to the committee.(link is external)Mickey Wiles, the CFO of Burlington Labs, also shared his personal story of addiction recovery and his time spent in federal prison for embezzlement. He said he was lucky to have a strong support system as he rebuilt his life and was given an opportunity with Burlington Labs, which has a mission of working with ex-0ffenders and people recovering from addiction.Mickey Wiles, the CFO of Burlington Labs.Finally, VBSR Public Policy Manager Daniel Barlow also testified about the organization’s support for the proposal. Read his testimony to the committee.(link is external) Passage of H.261 is a VBSR priority for the 2016 legislative session.Danforth CEO Talks Carbon Tax with House Energy Committeelast_img read more