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Aiming for Upset, Cruz Brings Presidential Campaign Home

HOUSTON — Ted Cruz returned home Tuesday evening to a hero's welcome, rallying hundreds of supporters outside the headquarters of his week-old presidential campaign with an impassioned plea to replicate the energy that propelled him to Congress in 2012. "Four years ago, when we launched a campaign for United States Senate, no one thought it was possible, and yet a great many of the women and men who are here — y'all rose up against all the odds, against all the money, against all the infrastructure, against all the party, and you said, 'Enough is enough, we are going to turn this country around," Cruz said in one of multiple references to his come-from-behind victory over former Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Joined by his wife Heidi and father Rafael, Cruz urged his backers to use the same tools as before — email, Facebook, Twitter and knocking on doors — to fight back against a political establishment dead set against his presidential bid. He touted the bipartisan resistance as a badge of honor, especially as he recalled recently reading in The New York Times — his favorite punching bag on the stump — that "apparently I am out of favor with the Washington elites." "I have to admit I wanted to print their article, make 300 million Xerox copies and give them to every American," Cruz said as the crowd roared in approval. Continue Reading

Telecom bill gets preliminary House approval

A bill changing the oversight structure of state programs bringing broadband to rural areas of Vermont passed the House in a nearly unanimous voice vote Tuesday. H.117 would put oversight for the state's Connectivity Fund into the hands of the Department of Public Service, whose Division of Telecommunications would be expanded to include Connectivity. Rep. Steve Carr, D-Brandon, of the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development, was the lead sponsor of the bill with Rep. Sam Young, D-Glover. Carr said one of the most useful provisions of the bill would require the Division of Telecommunications and Connectivity to submit a report to the Legislature by Jan. 15 of every year that maps Internet speed availability across the state. Continue Reading

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House Education Committee’s ‘big bill’ on floor Wednesday

Rep. David Sharpe (left), D-Bristol, and members of the House Education Committee explain H.361 to members of the House Democratic Caucus on Tuesday. Photo by Amy Ash Nixon/VTDigger
The architects of education governance reform legislation met with Democratic and Republican caucuses Tuesday on the eve of a House floor vote on one of the session's major bills. The House Education Committee fielded questions on proposals in the bill, including the spending cap, restriction on state education dollars going out of state and how small towns with high taxes will fare under the law. H.361 seeks to pull together the nearly 300 school districts in Vermont into fewer, larger school systems in an effort to find cost efficiencies and improve educational opportunities for the state's public school students. The Legislature made reform a priority this session because of growing voter discontent with rising education costs, rising property taxes and a continued decline in student enrollment. Continue Reading

U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble convenes dairies, DNR to discuss Green Bay phosphorus pollution

GREEN BAY — A summit here on Wednesday aims to fix the the nutrient pollution that has caused fish kills and unsafe beaches throughout Wisconsin, as well as an annual recurring dead zone in the Lake Michigan bay. “Since all of us live near the water, or use the water, or are affected by this large watershed, I felt it was important to bring the stakeholders together, and see if we could maybe stop pointing fingers at each other, and start pointing fingers at solutions,” said U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., who is hosting the event at the Neville Museum. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp will give a keynote talk on the impact of phosphorus regulations on the economy, while conventional dairy and organic farmers will appear on a panel about phosphorus and business. Thomas Sigmund of NEW Water Green Bay, the municipal sewerage district, will talk about point source pollution. A panel on curbing nonpoint pollution, moderated by Rep. Ribble, will include University of Wisconsin-Green Bay science professor Kevin Fermanich, the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, the DNR and the Natural Resources Conservation Services. Continue Reading

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Lawmakers skeptical of giant human services IT project

A massive state technology project that would streamline the management of eligibility requirements for Medicaid, heating assistance and a slew of other social benefit programs could be on the rocks. Gov. Peter Shumlin proposed to put $16 million over the next two years toward building a comprehensive system that would manage benefits eligibility requirements and phase out the state's 35-year-old system. But legislators have been wary of the investment in new technology. Lawmakers have pitched two bills this year, one in the House and one in the Senate, as well as language in the capital bill to step up oversight of large IT projects. And now the eligibility project has attracted opposition. Continue Reading

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Analysis: Budget Debate is About More than Money

Here's the thing about the only bill the Legislature has to pass: If you can get your pet project attached to it, your chances of success go way up. That is the answer to this question: Why did members of the Texas House prepare for this week's budget debate by proposing more than 300 proposed amendments? These people are just full of ideas. Four hours after they started their debate, the members of the House were 43 amendments into the pile. The controversies were few and far between, but not for lack of trying. Continue Reading

Walt Amses: The things of spring

Editor's note: Walt Amses is a writer and former educator who lives in Calais. Seemingly everyone wished winter was over until it seemed to convincingly end in one fell swoop as the temperature hit 50 degrees in early March, providing a 15-minute respite between the misery of winter and the misery of spring. The exhilarating smell of wet earth on a long, muddy walk gives way to the depressing rivulets of roof water streaking the kitchen's sheetrock walls, which appear to be inexorably melting like everything else. The cause for this deluge, perched on the edge of the roof, might just make the case for climate change deniers were it in Glacier National Park. It could be harboring a woolly mammoth skeleton. Continue Reading

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Culture Report: Playwriting to Connect

At the Playwrights Project, an empty stage is a powerful tool. The nonprofit taps into the experiences people who have faced tremendous odds, empowering them to educate others on worlds their viewers may know little about. For those in the audience, it's an opportunity to connect. A stage is a time machine, a recorder, an instrument and so much more. The Playwrights Project team, led by executive director Cecelia Kouma, serves as a megaphone to amplify the experiences of the people they work with by creating original plays based on their stories. Continue Reading