Members of Vermont's congressional delegation voiced support for continues Saturday postal service at a rally in South Burlington. Track upgrades will speed up Amtrak service in Vermont. State grants aim to improve voting access for the disabled.
NY leaders meet, continue talks on state budget
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York legislative leaders hope to announce agreement on the third straight on-time budget.
But in Albany budget negotiations, all deals hinge on the final one. After closed-door meetings Sunday, all sides claim they are a good distance apart.
Some difficult sticking points are whether to raise the minimum wage to as much as $9, whether to adopt business tax cuts, and whether to extend a “temporary” income tax increase for the second time.
Sen. Jeffrey Klein, who leads the Independent Democratic Conference which shares leadership of the Senate, said Sunday that there was no agreement on how much the minimum wage would rise. Republicans who share control of the chamber have opposed a minimum wage hike, but have been open to discussing it.
Districts find youngest students among most absent
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) President Barack Obama's proposal to expand access to preschool is seen as a way to close the achievement gap for poor and minority students, improve high school graduation rates and ultimately strengthen the workforce.
But that can't happen if children don't show up.
Educators say a district's youngest students are often among those with the worst attendance because in many cases, prekindergarten and kindergarten is voluntary. And many parents regard it as little more than babysitting, rather than a chance to build fundamental literacy and math skills.
Buffalo is among several districts taking steps to fight that, in part by identifying which students are considered chronically absent and then reaching out to educate families.
Report: NY Troopers' stun gun use questioned
POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. (AP) A newspaper investigation has found that 70 percent of people shocked by stun guns under a state police field test of the device were mentally ill, suicidal or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and a quarter were not combative.
The Poughkeepsie Journal reports its review of 91 Taser reports from December 2010 through April 2012 showed troopers shocked a dozen people who were fleeing or didn't pose a threat. U.S. Department of Justice guidelines discourage such use.
State police spokeswoman Darcy Wells said all Taser uses under the statewide pilot program have been evaluated by the agency and ruled justified. She said 800 troopers have been trained to carry the agency's 190 Tasers.
There are no mandatory rules in New York that govern the use of stun guns.
State reviews NY utility's stray voltage tests
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) The state Public Service Commission is reviewing the results of an upstate utility's annual testing for stray voltage.
Stray voltage is the electrification of objects such as street light poles and manhole covers that come in contact with corroded wiring. It can cause shocks to people and animals.
The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reports that the PSC is reviewing Rochester Gas and Electric's stray voltage testing for the second time in three years.
A watchdog group questions whether the equipment RG&E used to perform inspections caused the utility to overlook more than 200 stray voltage hazards.
Utility spokesman Dan Hucko defended the utility's stray voltage testing record and said any electrified objects that may have been overlooked have been mitigated.
NY men get prison time for $191K gold theft
HEBRON, N.Y. (AP) Two men have been sent to prison for stealing nearly $200,000 worth of rare gold coins and jewelry from an elderly woman in Washington County and selling the goods to buy heroin.
The Glens Falls Post-Star reports that 34-year-old Edward Thieverge of Greenwich was sentenced Friday to 11 years in state prison. The other man, 32-year-old Eric Martin of Argyle, was sentenced to 9 1/2 years in prison. Both face felony drug possession charges in Schenectady County.
The victim told the judge that Thieverge had done logging for her family years earlier.
The men broke into her home last August and stole about 70 rare coins and some jewelry valued at $191,000. Only three of the coins were recovered. The men must make an undetermined amount of restitution.
Vermont congressional members at post office rally
SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) Vermont's congressional delegation is supporting a bill that would keep mail delivery to six days a week.
The U.S. Postal Service's plans to suspend Saturday delivery to cut mounting debt drew opposition at a rally in South Burlington on Sunday.
Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Rep. Peter Welch voiced support for the bill.
The bill has already been passed in the House is headed to the Senate. There are dozens of rallies scheduled over the next few weeks across the nation.
Leahy said the mail carriers are the center of communities in a small state like Vermont. He said the mail carrier might be the only smiling face an otherwise homebound person sees during the day.
Vt. track upgrades mean faster Amtrak times
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) A series of upgrades to the railroad tracks means the Amtrak Vermonter is going to be traveling faster through the state.
The new timetable for the train that runs from New York to St. Albans, Vt., cuts 28 minutes off the trip within Vermont.
It is the direct result of a recently completed two-year, federally funded program to upgrade and repair a 190-mile stretch of track from the Massachusetts border to St. Albans.
The improvements include track and signal upgrades.
Track speeds along the route within Vermont have been increased, from 55 mph to a maximum 59 mph north of White River Junction and from 59 mph to a maximum 79 mph south of that location to the Massachusetts border.
The new timetable takes effect Monday.
Vt. awards $66k to 11 communities to ease voting
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) The Vermont Secretary of State's office says 11 communities are going to be getting almost $67,000 in grants to make it easier for people with disabilities to vote.
Secretary of State James Condos says the grants help the communities meet the federal Help America Vote Act by helping them improve the administration of and access to elections.
This year's grants will be used by municipalities to improve accessibility by things such as improving parking areas, building ramps and installing automatic doors.
The largest single grant will go to Moretown to install a ramp.
(All stories copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)