State getting $18.25 million to repair damage from Irene

Vermont’s congressional delegation says the state is going to get another $18.25 million to continue repairing roads damaged by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene and spring flooding in 2011.

The funding is part of $1.1 billion in new emergency relief funding approved by Congress. To get the federal funds Vermont will have to contribute about $4.26 million as a state match.

The flooding in the spring of 2011 and Tropical Storm Irene damaged hundreds of miles of Vermont roadways and damaged or destroyed dozens of bridges.

State officials have said many of the repairs done in the immediate aftermath of the storm were considered temporary fixes that would have to be revisited.


On lawmakers’ plate: New way of grading maple syrup

Vermont lawmakers are once again considering whether the state should adopt a new international grading system designed to help consumers when they buy maple syrup.

The grades were designed by the International Maple Syrup Institute.

All syrup sold at retail would carry a Grade A label, followed by a color and flavor descriptor. From lightest to darkest these new grades would be: golden color and delicate taste; amber color and rich taste; dark color and robust taste; very dark color and strong taste.

The state Agriculture Agency and the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association back the changes. The Burlington Free Press reports the agency is seeking support from the Vermont Legislature in the form of a resolution endorsing the changes


Bill would forbid landlords to require cats be declawed

Rhode Island landlords would no longer be able to require their tenants to declaw their cats under legislation pending in the state’s General Assembly.

Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio announced his proposal Thursday. Ruggerio’s proposal would also prohibit landlords from demanding that their tenants remove the vocal cords of dogs as a condition of occupancy.

The North Providence Democrats says landlords shouldn’t be allowed to demand that tenants subject their pets to what he calls inhumane acts.

The proposal is similar to a law in California, which was the first state to make it illegal for landlords to demand that tenants declaw a cat.

Under Ruggerio’s proposal landlords could still decline to rent to tenants with pets.

The bill has not been scheduled for a hearing or vote.


University’s public health program to become school

Brown University is launching a School of Public Health this summer.

The university says its governing board on Wednesday approved the creation of the school. Brown already has a public health program with 261 undergraduate and graduate students, but the move will elevate its status to a full school.

Terrie “Fox” Wetle, associate dean of medicine for public health, will serve as the new school’s dean. Her first task is to get the school nationally accredited, which is expected to take about two years.

The university says it will be able to compete for more funding and attract more student talent with a full public health school.

The Public Health School will become Brown’s third professional school, along with the Alpert Medical School and the School of Engineering.


Eagle found at landfill undergoing treatment

Veterinarians in North Kingstown are nursing a young bald eagle back to health after it was found ailing at the Central Landfill in Johnston.

The 2-year-old eagle is being treated at Veterinarian Services of Wickford. Animal doctors told WJAR-TV that someone brought the bird to them Tuesday after finding it at the landfill. They believe it’s a female.

Veterinarian Meredith Bird says the eagle was found at the landfill lying flat with its head down. Bird says the eagle may have been cold, underfed and stressed after the blizzard.

Veterinarians gave the eagle IV fluids and have been feeding it with a tube because it’s so weak. They hope to return it to the wild when it gets better.


Man accused of killing ex-girlfriend’s parakeet

Police in Rhode Island have charged a man with killing his ex-girlfriend’s parakeet during an argument at her home last week.

North Providence police told The Providence Journal they charged 27-year-old city resident Dorian Moron with malicious injury to an animal, assault, vandalism and disorderly conduct.

Police say Moron and his former girlfriend got into an argument last Friday and he smashed a birdcage with two birds inside. Officers say Moron slapped one of the birds when the woman tried to pick it up.

Authorities say Moron also stole the woman’s television and her cellphone.

Moron posted bail and is due in District Court on Thursday.


Picking Sen. Kerry successor could cost state $13.5 million

State officials say it is expected to cost Massachusetts at least $13.5 million to hold the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Secretary of State John Kerry.

State Auditor Suzanne Bump has estimated that it will cost cities and towns nearly $8.3 million to run the April 30 primary election and the June 25 final. The special election has been classified by the auditor’s office as an “unfunded local mandate,” meaning the state must reimburse local communities for the costs they incur.

Secretary of State William Galvin told lawmakers Thursday that he will be asking for an appropriation of at least $5.2 million to cover election-related costs to his office.

Galvin suggested that some municipalities could shave costs by holding their local elections on the same day as the Senate election.


What illnesses can pot treat? Let docs decide, state urged

Dozens of people, many with debilitating illnesses, have asked Massachusetts health officials to allow doctors to decide what conditions should be treated with marijuana.

Speakers urged the state Public Health Department on Thursday to not limit the list of conditions for which medical marijuana can be used.

About 100 people turned out for the second of three “listening sessions” hosted by the department as it drafts medical marijuana regulations.

Karen Munkacy, a breast cancer survivor and a physician, said she wants to make sure doctors are allowed to make the decisions with their patients.

Massachusetts voters approved the legalization of medical marijuana through a ballot question in November. Civil and criminal penalties were eliminated for the use of marijuana by people with cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, AIDS and other serious conditions.