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Vermont News Updates For Thursday, June 25

Sign in many languages about info for COVID-19
Abagael Giles
A sign hangs in the window of a store in Burlington's Old North End, highlighting multilingual resources and information about COVID-19 through the volunteer-run website

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus, pay for legislators, abnormally dry weather and more for Thursday, June 25.

Want VPR's daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 20 minutes with The Frequency every weekday morning. How about an email newsletter? Add our daily email briefing to your morning routine.

The latest coronavirus data:


Vermont Department of Health reports seven new cases of COVID-19

The Vermont Department of Health has identified seven new cases of COVID-19, with no more than one new case in any one county.

Three people are currently hospitalized with the disease, and 56 people have died. To date, 938 people in Vermont have recovered.

To date, the state has conducted more than 60,000 tests. About 2% of them have come back positive.

- Anna Van Dine

More from VPR: How Vermont's Multilingual Communities Are Providing Grassroots Translation, Resources For COVID-19

Vermont's Director of Racial Equity calls on Congress to pass criminal justice reform

The head of the office of Racial Equity in the Scott Administration is calling on Congress to pass a meaningful criminal justice reform bill in the coming weeks.

Executive Director Xusana Davis told reporters at a Montpelier press conference that legislation supported by many House and Senate Democrats represents an important first step in addressing systemic racism in this country.

The bill bans the use of choke holds, it requires body and car cameras, and it makes it easier for a citizen to sue a police officer if they feel their constitutional rights have been violated.

"And so this is one opportunity for us to celebrate gains and positive movement forward," Davis said. "Of course, there's always more that we can do. I'd be lying if I said this was a perfect or 100% complete bill. I don't think any bill ever is, but it's forward [motion]."

The bill faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate because Republican and Democratic leaders haven't been able to agree on several key provisions.

- Bob Kinzel

Vermont tattoo artist offers free removal of hateful skin art

A Vermont tattoo artist is offering a free service to people who want to remove or cover hateful skin art.

Alexander Lawrence, who runs Mountainside Tattoo in Bellows Falls, said he's always helped people who want to remove hateful images or cover scars.

But since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests over racial inequality and police violence, he's getting so many requests, he's looking for an office manager to schedule his appointments.

- The Associated Press

More from VPR: When A Conference Call Becomes A Lifeline

Bennington residents meet remotely to discuss racial profiling report

Bennington residents held a virtual meeting on Wednesday night to discuss a recently issued report that looks at racial profiling within the town's police department.

The town hired Curtiss Reed, Jr., director of Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, to help implement the report's recommendations. Reed led the discussion.

"The reason that we are here is to make sure that there are strong community voices as we go through the 25 recommendations and their implementation," Reed said.

Reed will interview community members who want to serve on two committees that will research civilian review boards and rural community policing practices.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

Four Vermont counties are officially in a drought

Four Vermont counties are officially in a moderate drought.

The United States Drought Monitor released a map Thursday showing that all of Windham and Bennington counties are under low-level drought conditions, as are much of Rutland and Windsor counties.

Most of the rest of Vermont, except for the Northeast Kingdom, is considered "abnormally dry."

Map of drought in Vermont June 2020
Credit Adam Hartman / NOAA/NWS
A map released Thursday shows southern Vermont counties are now in drought.

A moderate drought means lake levels and reservoir levels are considered low, and residents should take voluntary steps to conserve water. A moderate drought can also stress trees and fish, and increase the risk of wildfires.

- Henry Epp

Vermont Legislature votes to raise their pay in the future

The Legislature has voted to raise their pay in the future, despite concerns about the timing of the vote during an economic and health crisis.

The pay for the part-time lawmakers is relatively low, at about $700 per week, when they're in session. The bill would boost their pay by tying legislative increases to raises for other constitutional officers such as the governor and auditor.

Proponents like Calais Democrat Janet Ancel argue that low pay keeps qualified people from running.

"What I see is not really representative of the state, and I think it's time that we took even what I think is a fairly modest step to try to make this service more accessible to more people,"Ancel said.

But Northfield Republican Anne Donahue urged her colleagues to vote no.

"There's a valid debate there to be had, but in the middle of an impaired process for even public discourse and debate, in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of an economic crisis, this is not the time," Donahue said.

The House approved the provision on a vote of 82 to 61. On Thursday, the Senate unanimously agreed.

- John Dillon

More from VPR: 'Kind Of Freaky': Health Care Workers Reflect On Starting Careers Amid A Pandemic

Vermont Supreme Court hears arguments on large capacity magazine ban

The Vermont Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on whether the state's ban on large-capacity magazines is unconstitutional.

The Bennington Bannerreports that self-described White supremacist Max Misch faces misdemeanor charges for two 30-round rifle magazines police found in his home last year. Misch is the first person charged with violating the ban on large-capacity magazines.

The defense asserts that the magazine ban violates residents' right to bear arms under the state constitution. The Vermont Attorney General's Office contests that the state muts pass reasonable regulations to protect residents from gun violence. The charges against Misch could be thrown out if the ban is deemed to be unconstitutional.

- The Associated Press

N.H. senate to vote on 'red flag' bill

A New Hampshire Senate committee has passed a bill allowing police or relatives to petition a court to temporarily remove guns from people who pose a danger to themselves or others.

The bill, which was approved by the House on the opening day of the new legislative session, passed the Judiciary Committee 3-2 after a lengthy debate and now moves to the full Senate for a vote. But even if it passes the Democratically-controlled body, it will be vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

New Hampshire would join 19 other states and Washington, D.C., in passing so-called "red-flag" laws.

- The Associated Press

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