Mud watch: VT town has online map for muddy roads. Gas tax in VT. House; public records in Senate. Ontario braces for blast of winter weather with up to 20cm of snow forecast.
Storm closes, delays schools in upstate NY
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Schools from central New York to the Adirondacks and the Hudson Valley are closed or starting two hours late as a late-winter storm blasts the region with a mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain.
The National Weather Service reports snowfall totals early Tuesday morning range from 3 inches in the Binghamton area to nearly 8 inches in Saratoga County. The storm is mostly impacting the eastern half of upstate New York, although weather advisories are in effect for some counties in western New York.
State police covering a four-county area east of the Hudson River say they've responded to more than 80 accidents and reports of disabled vehicles since the storm started around 6 p.m. Wednesday. Troopers are advising motorists to exercise caution as sleet and freezing rain falls in the Hudson Valley.
Sources: NY budget to include $9 min wage
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Critics say a proposal in closed-door budget negotiations to extend a temporary income tax hike for the second time is bad for New York and a ploy by Albany politicians.
E.J. McMahon, of the fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute says the hike didn't seem to be “in the cards” when Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his spending plan two months ago.
The $2 billion income tax increase isn't due to expire until 2014, but that's an election year. The proposal being considered in closed-door talks was first revealed last week by The Associated Press. Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos says extending the income tax on millionaires is Cuomo's idea.
At the same time, state officials say the budget is expected to include a $9 an hour minimum wage -- to kick in in two years -- and $700 million in new business tax cuts with some directed to middle-class families.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the internal closed-door discussions.
NY fracking foes: will become lobby if required
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Artists Against Fracking say the group and supporter-celebrities, including Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon, haven't been told to register as lobbyists in their campaign to stop gas drilling in New York, but will if required to continue their cause.
A good-government advocate and two lobbying experts said Monday the state should review whether Artists Against Fracking and the celebrities should be registered as lobbyists. That would require disclosure of how much money they've raised and how it's been spent. The measure a way for the public to know who is influencing policy.
A spokesman for the group said it will register if required to.
The group and dozens of celebrities have opposed the hydraulic fracturing method of gas drilling that New York is considering for an economically depressed area upstate.
NY agency reports decline in disabled abuse
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) The state agency responsible for care and services for 126,000 disabled New Yorkers says abuse allegations and serious incidents have declined by 22 percent in state-run facilities and by 9.5 percent at others operated by nonprofit contractors.
The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities cites reforms over the past two years, including better incident reporting and investigations, for the decline from 2011 to 2012.
The agency recorded 12,175 abuse allegations and 4,978 serious incidents, including 1,606 possible criminal acts, in 2011. Complete 2012 data was not immediately available.
Commissioner Courtney Burke says the numbers show progress, though much work remains.
Critics say the state needs to do more, including installing video cameras to deter staff from harming or neglecting disabled residents.
Ft. Drum had $1.4B impact on northern NY economy
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (AP) A study of Fort Drum's economic impact on a three-county area of northern New York finds the Army post pumped more than $1.4 billion into the region during the last fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.
The economic impact statement released Monday by Fort Drum officials says that figure is down from the previous fiscal year, when the total topped $1.6 billion for the first time since 2008.
Fort Drum is home to the 10th Mountain Division and its 19,000 soldiers. Some 20,000 family members live in the area, and the post employs more than 4,500 civilian workers.
School districts in Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties received more than $28 million in federal impact aid.
Report: NY construction jobs rise over past year
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) A national construction trade group says recovery work from Superstorm Sandy is likely behind a spike in the number of construction jobs between December and January.
The Associated General Contractors of America reports that New York had the second-largest percentage increase during that period, 4.2 percent, while adding 13,000 construction jobs. Only Wyoming had a larger percentage increase during the same period, with 4.6 percent.
The trade group says overall, New York ranked 15th in the nation in construction employment by adding 7,500 jobs between January 2012 and last January. The report puts New York's construction employment at more than 322,000 as of the end of January.
The report says the state's one-month boost in construction jobs earlier this winter was probably due to recovery work started in the weeks after Sandy hit New York.
Mud watch: Vt town has online map for muddy roads
BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) Drivers in Brattleboro, Vt., who want to know how the town's roads are doing during mud season this year can now look online.
Brattleboro is trying out an interactive, online map on the town's website that shows roads in color code with up-to-date conditions.
The site also has a chart that rates the roads from good to fair to poor to closed.
The Brattleboro Reformer reports (http://bit.ly/1499Vr4) on the town's rating system a “good” road is passable by all vehicles, while a road in fair condition could require high clearance or four wheel drive.
A road in poor condition means that only four-wheel drive vehicles will be able to navigate the mud.
For more information go www.brattleboro.org.
Information from: Brattleboro Reformer, http://www.reformer.com/
Gas tax in Vt. House; public records in Senate
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) Vermont lawmakers have a busy week coming up, with the House expected to take action on boosting transportation funding by increasing the gasoline tax, and the Senate slated to take final action on making some police records public.
In the House, Speaker Shap Smith says he expects action on the transportation bill Wednesday and Thursday. It would phase in about $26 million in new gas tax revenues over two years.
Among other bills the House is likely to take up is one calling on Vermont employers to make sure women are paid equally with men when they're doing the same work.
In the Senate, final passage is expected on a bill that would open some police investigative records to public review, when that would not interfere with an active investigation.
Ontario braces for blast of winter weather with up to 20 cm of snow forecast
TORONTO - Forecasters say Ontario is in for a blast of winter weather before spring arrives on Wednesday with special weather statements calling for significant snowfall over much of the province.
Environment Canada says a low pressure system moving northeast from Indiana is expected to spread a wintry and messy mix of precipitation into southern Ontario. Precipitation is expected to range from ice pellets and freezing rain in some areas of the south to up to 20 centimetres of snow over extreme eastern Ontario.
A low pressure system tracking east from northern Minnesota is forecast to spread up to 20 centimetres of snow across northern Ontario through Tuesday. Colder air is expected to blast into all regions from the west on Tuesday in the wake of the disturbance, with flurries and colder than normal temperatures forecast.
Hazardous winter driving conditions are anticipated as untreated roads may become slippery and snow covered, and visibility in areas of heavier snow may be quite low.
(The Canadian Press) (from Broadcast News Ltd.)
(All stories copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)