News February 5

Senator Sanders

Sanders: Obama Should Focus on Jobs Looking ahead to next Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Sen. Bernie Sanders hoped that President Obama will address the decline of the middle class and the need to create jobs. “What I want to hear the president say is that at a time when our infrastructure is crumbling, at a time when we need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels to deal with global warming, he is going to push major legislation in those areas to create millions and millions of jobs,” Sanders told Tavis Smiley Monday on PBS. VIDEO   

Congress Ignores Jobs Only two of the 10 priority bills laid out by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are related to jobs, the Huffington Post reported. “It is really quite incredible that we're not talking about jobs,” Sen. Bernie Sanders told The Huffington Post. “If senators go home to their states, they're going to find that people are unemployed in much too large a number – and underemployed.”  LINK  

Senate Retreat Senate Democrats are holding a closed-door retreat in Annapolis, Md., on Tuesday and Wednesday as they seek to mend divisions on gun control, immigration reform and taxes. The question of how to deal with guest workers split Senate Democrats when they last debated comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. Then, 15 Democrats and Sen. Sanders voted against moving to a final vote on an immigration bill. Eleven of the 16 are still in the Senate, The Hill reported. LINK

EPA Whoever President Obama picks to lead the Environmental Protection Agency will face criticism from the right as going too far in pushing job-killing regulations and criticism from the left as not doing enough to crack down on polluters. Fifteen Democratic senators joined independent Sen. Sanders in urging Obama last week to replace the outgoing EPA administrator with someone who'll retain a focus on public health and the environment, McClatchy reported. LINK

Solar Power Sen. Sanders was in Shelburne, Vt., on Monday to kick off Vermont's Co-Op Solar program. The partnership between a fuel dealer and solar company aims to save money for homeowners and businesses. Roof-top solar panels heat hot water year round saving hundreds of dollars on fuel bills, WPTZ-TV reported. VIDEO

Veteran Suicides An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide in the United States every day, according to a VA study made public Friday. The chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee called the pace of veterans’ suicides unacceptable. "What we're seeing is an extraordinary tragedy which speaks to the horror of war and the need for us to do a much better job of assisting our soldiers and their families after they return home," Sen. Sanders said in USA Today.

Media Monopolies The Federal Communications Commission’s may relax rules on cross-ownership that have prevented television and radio broadcasters from owning newspapers in the top-20 media markets. “If you are concerned about the economy, if you are concerned about health care, if you are concerned about foreign policy, you must be concerned about the media," Sanders told a forum at the Newseum, Truthout reported.   LINK

HELP Sen. Tom Harkin’s impending retirement has many wondering who will chair the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in 2014. New America Foundation’s Early Ed Watch blog called Sen. Sanders the “top choice,” but said his chairmanship “seems potentially too controversial for Democratic leadership in the Senate.”  LINK

Guns As Congress gears up for its first major votes on gun control in a decade, a USA Today and Gannett survey of lawmakers found Republicans in Congress are much better armed than their Democratic counterparts. One hundred nineteen Republicans and 46 Democrats declared themselves as gun owners. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy owns a gun. Sen. Sanders does not. LINK

Letters The Vermont congressional delegation voted for a bill that made it legal to carry a loaded weapon in national parks, Arnie Brown of Norwich wrote disapprovingly in a letter to the editor of the Valley News. Industrial wind power in Vermont “represents a fleecing of the ratepayers,” Mike Pollica of Plainfield said in a letter to the Times Argus that referenced a Sanders news conference. LINKLINK

National

U.S. Sues S&P The Justice Department sued Standard & Poor's Ratings Services late Monday, alleging the firm ignored its own standards to rate mortgage bonds that imploded in the financial crisis and cost investors billions. The civil charges by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder against the New York company, one of the bond-rating industry's three giants, are the first federal enforcement action against a credit-rating firm over the crisis. Several state attorneys general are likely to join. LINK

The Right to Vote With studies suggesting that long lines at the polls cost Democrats hundreds of thousands of votes in November, Democrats in the House and Senate have already introduced bills that would require states to provide online voter registration and allow at least 15 days of early voting, The New York Times reported. LINK

Hagel Nomination Several Republican senators — notably John McCain — said Monday they would oppose a filibuster of former Senator Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense, moving the nominee much closer toward approval. “I just do not believe a filibuster is appropriate, and I would oppose such a move,” McCain told reporters. LINK

U.S. May Kill Americans Overseas who Pose ‘Imminent Threat’ The United States can lawfully kill a U.S. citizen overseas if it determines the target is a “senior, operational leader” of al-Qaeda or an associated group and poses an imminent threat to this country, according to a Justice Department document obtained by NBC News. LINK

Costs of Congestion The nation's commuters are adapting to increasing traffic congestion by building delays into their schedules, but at a cost of $121 billion in wasted time and fuel, according to an annual study of national driving patterns released Tuesday. The report found that Americans wasted an average of $818 each sitting in traffic in 2011. That also meant more carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere. The worst commute in the country? Washington. Commuters in the nation's capital needed almost three hours for a trip that should take 30 minutes without traffic, according to The Associated PressLINK

Tax Evasion The Internal Revenue Service is expanding its prosecution of offshore tax evasion, targeting smaller banks and international banks that assist tax evaders. At the same time, the IRS is conducting an amnesty program allowing confessed tax evaders to pay penalties, but avoid criminal prosecution, The Wall Street Journal reported. LINK

American Manufacturing U.S. factory orders increased by 1.8 percent in December, the Commerce Department said Monday. The institute’s manufacturing index rose to 53.1 from 50.2 in December and  was the highest reading since April, Time reported. LINK

Vermont

Veterans Vermont veterans seeking to create or expand small businesses now have access to office support services thanks to a business incubator set aside just for them in Randolph, officials said Monday. The Vermont Tech Enterprise Center Business Incubator provides the office space and equipment veterans need to do office work, have business meetings, or just think and share ideas with other business owners, the Associated Press reported. LINK

Science Scholarships Vermont’s Johnson State College is going to be offering $40,000 scholarships for students majoring in biology and environmental sciences. The four-year scholarships are being supported by a $552,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, the Associated Press reported. LINK

Paperless Licensing Vermont licensing may go paperless for 45 professions overseen by the Office of Professional Regulation, save several thousand dollars in paper and time, The Associated Press reported. The paperless licensing initiative begins immediately with the office's largest license renewal of registered nurses whose licenses are set to expire March 31. LINK

Union Fees A bill expected to pass the Vermont Senate would call on public employees to support public unions representing them with a fee, even if they do not join those unions, WPTZ reported. The bill would move on to the House after Senate approval. LINK

Economic Development Members of the House Commerce and Economic Development and Transportation committees will tour economic development projects in northern Vermont Tuesday. The developments in Jay and Newport are expect to bring thousands of jobs to the region, WCAX-TV reported. LINK