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Oil prices taxing for Vermonters

first_imgOil prices taxing for Vermontersby Kevin KelleyVermonters have been whacked with the equivalent of a new $850 million tax as a result of the doubling of oil prices in the past year, said Tom Kavet, the State Legislature’s economist. That hit – heavier than the total $622 million impact from personal income tax payments – is bound to stagger the Vermont economy as consumers cut back on discretionary spending in order to pay for heating fuel and gasoline, Kavet reckoned.About 70 percent of the added charge for the 17 million barrels of oil consumed annually in Vermont is going overseas – to the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. “Almost none of it stays in-state,” he said.It’s largely because of that drain that Kavet expects a “severe” recession to occur in Vermont.Peter Shumlin, the 52-year-old leader of the Democratic majority in the State Senate, fears that the coming downturn will prove to be “the most difficult of my lifetime.” And Matt Cota, director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association, likened the approaching turbulence to a category-five hurricane. “We’ve had a 6-month warning to brace for it,” he said.The clouds do appear darkly ominous.An average Vermont household with an income of about $50,000 spent roughly $2,000 on heating fuel last winter, estimated Dick Heaps, vice president of Westford-based Northern Economic Consulting. According to Heaps, that four percent share of gross income could more than double this winter. “That’s going to have a large negative impact on the economy,” he said.Vermonters have already achieved considerable reductions in heating oil consumption by adopting conservation measures, Cota said. A typical home burned about 1,500 gallons of fuel per year a couple of decades ago, compared to around 850 gallons now, he said. Cota believes that further enhancements of furnace efficiency and a tighter buttoning up of homes, combined with still-lower settings of thermostats, could bring consumption down to as little as 600 gallons per household in the coming year. Even at that level, however, a Vermont household would still have to spend about $3,000 on heating fuel, based on the current price of about $5 a gallon.Cota expressed hope that emergency assistance initiatives by both the federal and state governments will prevent tragedies from occurring in Vermont during the sub-freezing months. In the meantime, some fuel dealers are playing the role of social workers, he said. Cota imagines a scenario in which a heating-oil delivery man telling a customer, “You live in this great big farmhouse by yourself. Maybe you should consider moving in with your daughter for the winter.”Businesses don’t have those sorts of options, said Duane Marsh, director of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. “They can’t switch to wood-burning stoves,” he said, “but I’m sure they’ll be dialing down and buying lots of sweaters.”Because business owners are “pretty resilient in the short term,” Marsh expects that “tough decisions” will be deferred to the next fiscal year in many cases. “But the longer something like this goes on,” he said of the upward spiral in energy costs, “the more difficult it becomes to maintain the status quo.”The state government will also be seeking additional economies as energy-related expenditures rise and as tax revenues fall, said Susan Bartlett, chair of the State Senate Appropriations Committee. Travel plans for state officials are being scaled back or eliminated altogether. But the state can do little to economize on heating costs, most of which accumulate at schools, Bartlett added.Bartlett said firm estimates of the energy crisis’ impact on the state’s budget are not yet available. What’s already clear, Kavet noted, is that revenues from taxes on gasoline and on automobile sales and use are down by a total of about $15 million from last year. Rooms and meals tax receipts are dropping as well, mainly because tourists are either not coming to Vermont in the same numbers or are choosing to spend less when they do visit the state.Despite these strains, Vermont’s budget remains in comparatively sound shape, Bartlett said. The state’s economy has also not been ravaged nearly as much as Florida’s or Arizona’s, for example, where home sales have tanked due to speculative overbuilding. The housing market is still generally stable in Vermont, with far fewer foreclosures occurring here on a percentage basis than in many other states.According to Heaps, a continued positive performance by its housing sector may enable Vermont to survive a national downturn with few scars. He still adheres to the belief that the U.S. economy will not experience a deep or long-lasting recession.Cota takes an optimistic view as well. Because the run-up in oil prices amounts to a bubble, he said, the price of a barrel should drop back to $70 or $80, which would bring back the days of $2 per gallon heating oil.”The question is when this will happen,” Cota said.Kavet observed that not all business sectors will be badly bruised in Vermont. Due to the weakness of the U.S. dollar, he said, the “winners in the current situation will be those who export, and Vermont does have a fair number of companies that do a good export business.”According to Kavet, the governor and State Legislature have only limited abilities to stimulate Vermont’s economy or to mitigate the effects of a national recession. “We don’t have anything like the fiscal and monetary levers that are available to the national legislature,” he said.In the long term, however, Vermont’s political leaders could position the state to prosper more than it has in the past, Shumlin said. He described a switchover to renewable energy as an inevitable move for the country as a whole. Vermont could take advantage of that development by working harder to attract “creative new jobs in the energy sectors.”In the immediate future, Bartlett said, the legislature and governor can cooperate to “take a lot of little steps that, together, will help ordinary Vermonters make it through this winter and help Vermont businesses in the process.”last_img read more

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Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee tackles disclosure issues

first_imgJudicial Ethics Advisory Committee tackles disclosure issues Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee tackles disclosure issues January 15, 2002 Regular Newscenter_img Disclosure is appropriate when a party is represented by a law firm that previously represented the firm of a judge’s spouse in a legal malpractice action, according to the Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee.But disqualification in such an instance is not ethically required and the disclosure is only required for a “reasonable period of time.” Opinion Number: 2001-17The inquiring judge’s spouse is a shareholder and director of a medium-sized law firm. The law firm currently has two malpractice claims pending against it, neither of which alleges wrongdoing by the judge’s spouse. The judge is currently entering orders of recusal in actions in which a party is represented by an attorney from the law firm representing the spouse’s law firm, and the judge questioned whether disclosure is appropriate after the representation ceases, and if disclosure is made, whether disqualification is ethically required.The panel said the issues involve mixed questions of ethics and law and the issue of disqualification is governed by Canon 3E and Florida Rules of Judicial Administration 2.160, while the issue of disclosure is governed by the commentary to Canon 3E.Canon 3E of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides: “A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which a judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” The commentary to Canon 3E of the Code of Judicial Conduct sets forth the circumstances under which disclosure is appropriate: “A judge should disclose on the record information that the judge believes the parties or their lawyers might consider relevant to the question of disqualification, even if the judge believes there is no real basis for disqualification. The fact that the judge conveys this information does not automatically require the judge to be disqualified upon a request by either party, but the issue should be resolved on a case-by-case basis.“Therefore, disclosure of the spouse’s former relationship with a law firm which now represents one of the parties is mandatory if the judge believes the information is relevant to the question of disqualification, and disqualification is required if the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” the committee said. “The determination of whether the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned depends upon the nature and extent of the relationship between the spouse and the attorney, whether the attorney was personally involved with the spouse, the monetary or personal significance of the case to the spouse, and the passage of time since the representation.”The committee said the inquiring judge should make a disclosure of the prior relationship for a reasonable period of time following the conclusion of the law firm’s representation, but said the disclosure of information is not an admission of bias but is necessary to enable a party to make an informed decision as to whether or not to seek disqualification.“A reasonable period of time has previously been suggested by this committee to be from several months to one year, depending upon the unique facts and circumstances of the representation,” the panel said.The panel said disclosure does not necessarily require disqualification pursuant to Canon 3E. The Supreme Court has recently held that different standards govern disqualification and disclosure and that the standard for disclosure is lower.In the case of In re: Frank, 753 So. 2d 1228 (Fla. 2000), the Supreme Court embraced the view that disqualification is personal and discretionary with the individual members of the judiciary. In making decisions regarding disqualification, the Supreme Court gave the following guidance to judges: “Judges must do all that is reasonably necessary to minimize the appearance of impropriety. They must remain cognizant of the fact that even in situations where they personally believe that their judgment would not be colored, public perception may differ.”The inquiring judge correctly determined that disqualification is proper in cases in which the law firm, who also currently represents the spouse’s law firm, appears before the court, the committee said.“However, the committee believes that after the representation is completed, there is no ethical duty for the court to disqualify itself pursuant to Canon 3E under the facts and circumstances of this inquiry, unless the judge believes that the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” the panel said. “Although disqualification may not be ethically mandated, disqualification would be appropriate if a party filed a legally sufficient motion for disqualification pursuant to Rule 2.160, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration. If the motion is legally sufficient, the court has no discretion and must grant the motion.”The Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee is expressly charged with rendering advisory opinions interpreting the application of the Code of Judicial Conduct to specific circumstances confronting or affecting a judge or judicial candidate. Its opinions are advisory, and conduct that is consistent with an opinion may be evidence of good faith on the part of the judge, but the Judicial Qualifications Commission is not bound by the committee’s interpretive opinions.The full text of the committee’s opinions is available on the Supreme Court’s website by clicking here.last_img read more

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LTO to let vans-for-hire service BPO workers

first_imgMass public transport had been suspended inthis city after authorities imposed an enhanced community quarantine until endof April 30 to slowdown the spread of coronavirus disease 2019. On Wednesday, some LTO personnel came underfire after they reportedly apprehended and took the licenses of the drivers ofvans hired by Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies to servicetheir employees. “We will give the operators of thesevans-for-hire until Friday to secure necessary permit from the LandTransportation and Franchising Regulatory Board,” he added. BACOLOD City – The Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Western Visayas has temporarily allowed the operation of vans-for-hire being contracted by call center firms here for their employees. The LTO didn’t only apprehend one but severalvans, with some apprehensions reportedly having taken place at night. “LTO, HPG (Highway Patrol Group) paano nag colorum ang mga van kay gin-rent na sang BPO companies andtheydo not cater to the general public. Palaktonnyo ang BPO employees? Explain nyo nasa office ko,” Familiaran lashedon his Facebook post. For his part, Sacramento said they willtemporarily suspend the apprehension of hired service vehicles. The passengers of the vans, who were callcenter agents were then compelled to walk home. LTO 6 Operations chief Atty. Allan Sacramentogave the assurance after an online meeting with Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran. As of Wednesday, according to the City HeathOffice, Bacolod has seven COVID-19 patients, six of whom are now considered“clinically recovered” and another one died./PN Familiaran bared that this operation was notproperly coordinated with the city government.last_img read more

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AFCON 2017:Libya removed as hosts

first_imgLibya have been removed as hosts of the 2017 African Nations Cup finals as ongoing fighting in the country delays plans to build new stadiums for the 16-team tournament.The Confederation of African Football are inviting new bidders for the tournament, it said on its Twitter account on Saturday, Reuters reports.Countries wishing to host the tournament have until Sept. 30 to send in expressions of interest, it added.Libya has endured weeks of recent chaos as the government struggles to control former rebel fractions who helped topple former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.Libya were originally scheduled to hold the Nations Cup in 2013 but because of the civil war swapped with 2017 hosts South Africa.The oil-rich north African country had been planning to build 11 stadiums at a cost of $314m, including a showpiece new 60,000-seater Austrian-built stadium on the site of a former military camp in Tripoli. Benghazi and Misrata were also due for major stadiums.Libya’s government said last year it hoped the hosting of the Nations Cup would allow it to demonstrate that life had returned to normal in the country and encourage investors.last_img read more

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