Montpelier, VT Vermont business development projects totaling $21 million will receive $5.2 million in financing assistance from the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA). Principals of two of the manufacturing projects approved for VEDA financing estimate 100 new jobs will be created within three years of the investments. VEDA is especially excited and pleased to offer financing assistance that helps stimulate jobs creation in the manufacturing sector of Vermonts economy, said Jo Bradley, the Authoritys Chief Executive Officer. Among the projects approved by VEDA are:Revision Eyewear, Ltd., Essex Junction Financing of $1 million was approved as part of a $3 million capital expenditure project, enabling this highly-specialized military eyewear company to upgrade its plant, laboratory, and production facilities. TD Banknorth is also participating in the project, which aims to add 60 new jobs to the companys current payroll of 44 within three years. Based in Essex Junction since 2007, and in Williston for three years prior, Revision Eyewear is an ISO 9001:2000 registered company that has a diverse global supply chain, including custom made components from all over the United States, Europe and the Far East. With this equipment and leasehold investment, the company will be better able to service its most important customer the U.S. military by assuring advanced training, R&D, quality control, production flow, and protection of intellectual property. Vermont Composites, Inc., Bennington VEDA approved up to $1 million in mortgage insurance on a $4.5 million working capital line of credit extended to Vermont Composites, Inc. (VCI) by Chittenden Bank. VCI is a market leader in the design and fabrication of carbon fiber reinforced composite structures for the aerospace and medical industries. VCI projects adding 48 jobs to its current payroll of 195 within three years of the expansion project.Vermont Precision Woodworks, Morrisville VEDA agreed to insure $375,000 of a $500,000 working capital line of credit offered Vermont Precision Woodworks (VPW) by Union Bank. Based in Morrisville, VPW employs 37, and both produces and imports youth bedroom and home office furniture for independent furniture stores and high-volume national retailers.Grafton Village Cheese Company, Inc., Brattleboro – An additional $500,000 in industrial revenue bond financing was approved by VEDA, supplementing $8.2 million in financing given final approval by the Authority in August, 2007. The funds support the construction of a new cheese manufacturing and aging facility, now nearing completion, on land owned by the Windham Foundation in Brattleboro.Additional financings approved by the VEDA Board of Directors include:Over $1.1 million in farm ownership and operating loans through the Authoritys agricultural financing program, the Vermont Agricultural Credit Corporation;Business real estate development loans totaling $664,000 through the Authoritys Vermont 504 Corporation; and Small business loans totaling $578,668 through the Authoritys Vermont Small Business Development Corporation.VEDAs mission is to promote economic prosperity in Vermont by providing financial assistance to eligible businesses, including manufacturing, agricultural, and travel and tourism enterprises. Since its inception in 1974, VEDA has made financing commitments totaling over $1.3 billion. For more information about VEDA, visit www.veda.org(link is external) or call 802-828-5627.
Lawmakers examine death penalty statute Senior EditorWhat is the best way to protect Florida’s death penalty? Prohibit judges from overriding a jury’s recommendation of life imprisonment — something that rarely happens? Or leave the law unchanged?That question confronted members of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee last month when Sen. Rod Smith, D-Gainesville, introduced SB 120 to make the override change.The bill and debate are part of the continuing fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year in Ring v. Arizona, where the Court held that juries, not judges, should impose a death penalty.That has led to concern over Florida’s law where juries make recommendations, but the final penalty is imposed by the trial judge.“I am an absolute supporter of the death penalty,” Smith, a former state attorney, told the committee. “I do have a genuine concern, a belief, that if we allow the court to override a [jury] recommendation of life, then we have a possible problem.“My proposed bill is to do one thing. In death penalty litigation, what we would do is change the statute. If the jury recommends life, I propose the judge will not have the ability to override the recommendation of life.”It would also fix a problem with jury instructions, Smith said, adding, “I believe we ought to tell the jury straight out that if you recommend life, we don’t give that great weight, we give it preclusive weight. If you recommend death, we give that great weight.”Smith brought up his bill after the committee heard Carolyn Snurkowski, who heads the attorney general’s office that handles death appeals for the state, discuss Ring v. Arizona and its effect on Florida law. The committee also heard from several speakers, some of whom said the legislature should also require a unanimous jury to impose the death penalty.At the end of the meeting, following extensive discussion, Smith decided to wait for a vote so all committee members can review relevant state and federal decisions and come to him with any questions.At one point, Sen. Steven Geller, D-Hallandale Beach, referred to the complexity: “You have a bunch of lawyers sitting here arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. We’re trying to dissect fine points of law and all we can give you is educated guesses.”Snurkowski told the committee that nine states were potentially affected by the Ring decision because either judges imposed the final sentence, or juries and judges together were involved. (Twenty-nine other states with the death penalty have it imposed only by unanimous jury.)Florida is distinguishable from Arizona, she said, because in Arizona the judge alone is responsible for the sentence, while in Florida the jury makes a recommendation that is considered by the judge.Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari twice in last-minute appeals for Linroy Bottoson, who was executed in December, in which Ring was raised and the Florida Supreme Court in Bottoson and one other appeal said Ring did not apply to those cases. That makes it unlikely, Snurkowski said, that Ring will be applied retroactively in Florida.While the U.S. Supreme Court has not directly considered the Florida law, that the “cert petitions were denied. . . is a good indication,” she said.Sen. J. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, pressed Snurkowski on the rulings and whether any changes could jeopardize the law.He argued that it would be illogical for the U.S. Supreme Court, after denying the cert petitions, to come back and find constitutional problems with Florida’s law.“Any change could make it unconstitutional?” he asked Snurkowski.“That’s a broad statement,” she replied.“They have not seen a problem with the death penalty statute. Any changes we make, one word, would open the door to an attack, wouldn’t it?” Villalobos said.“I’ll give you that,” Snurkowski answered.But Smith said he had a different reading of events. While the Florida Supreme Court unanimously said Ring didn’t apply to Bottoson and the other case, several justices expressed concern that it could in future cases. He noted that recently retired Justice Major Harding wrote that the concerns, which include the judicial override issue, could lead to a repeal of the death penalty law.As for the cert issues, “when a court denies cert, that is an extraordinary remedy, and that is not a ruling on the merits,” Geller said. “That merely means the court has denied consideration in those extraordinary circumstances.”He also said he was concerned that Florida law allows judges to find aggravating circumstances that can justify a death penalty without having those circumstances presented to the jury.“Florida law still appears to say in order to impose the death penalty, the judge has to find aggravating circumstances,” Geller noted. “That’s close to what the Court threw out in Ring.” S ixth Circuit Public Defender Bob Dillinger said the Florida Public Defenders Association supports the bill, but thinks it should go further and require a unanimous jury to impose the death penalty, as is the case in almost all other states. He noted that a unanimous jury is required when a minimum mandatory sentence will be imposed in a criminal case, but is not required for the most serious punishment.“We are putting the citizens and taxpayers at the risk and expense of extensive litigation and with the wrong result,” he said.Russell Smith, legislative affairs chair of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, concurred, saying Florida is the only state that does not require a unanimous jury.“Most of us who work with the death penalty agree the one thing that is most likely to be declared unconstitutional is the judicial override,” he said, adding that several federal opinions indicate the jury decision should be unanimous.Jerry Blair, president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, also voiced support for the bill, although he conceded some state attorneys do not think a change is needed.“We have to balance the risk of doing nothing in light of Ring and perhaps having our entire system overturned,” Blair said, “or engaging in a wholesale rewrite, which I think is unwise.”Villalobos said, philosophically, he would prefer to impose the death penalty only with a unanimous jury, but, realistically, he’s reluctant to tamper with the law and risk a slew of new litigation.And Smith concluded that he wanted more time for committee members to read court opinions and have their questions answered. February 1, 2003 Gary Blankenship Senior Editor Regular News Lawmakers examine death penalty statute
Shortly before Hong Kong was handed back to China, Simon Ng applied for a British National (Overseas) passport, a document he never thought he’d need. Now he is considering whether to use it to emigrate.China’s plan to impose a sweeping national security law on the city in response to huge pro-democracy protests has Ng mulling the prospect of leaving, the first time he has contemplated such action since Britain returned the former colony in 1997.”Back then, like many of my peers, I thought China would reform and there was hope,” the 52-year-old assistant professor told AFP. Youngsters keen to leaveA recent survey of more than 800 Hong Kongers by the Chinese University found those aged between 18 and 24 reported the strongest desire to emigrate, with over 50 per cent considering it.Yet most of those under 23-year-old, who formed the bedrock of last year’s protests, are not currently eligible for BN(O) status. Recent graduate Asuka Law, 23, was three months old at handover so is eligible for (BN(O) status. She is planning to leave as soon as October, using a scheme Britain offers people under 30 from certain countries to live and work there for two years.She fears the right to dissent will soon disappear from Hong Kong. “I don’t think I have that much time left,” Law said. “It’s hard to do anything more in this city as every single objection will be met with an iron fist.”She said she wants to start a business overseas to help fellow Hong Kongers. “Someone will have to do the job of providing a safety shelter,” she said.Law’s friend Reese Tan, a 25-year old tutor, is also trying the youth scheme.He vowed to continue his “fight for Hong Kong” overseas by joining campaigns for international support.”I am not escaping. Hong Kong will always be my home,” Tan said. “But now, this is really a dark moment, and the future is quite likely to be even worse.”BN(O) status was the product of an earlier round of similar fears.The run up to the 1997 handover was a febrile time. While Ng was optimistic, many other Hong Kongers worried about what rule by authoritarian communist China might mean for the city’s freedoms and thriving capitalist system. Topics : ‘Path to citizenship’Beijing says the law — which will bypass Hong Kong’s legislature — is needed to tackle “terrorism”, “separatism” and restore confidence in a city rocked by a year of unrest. But critics fear it will bring mainland-style political oppression to a business hub supposedly guaranteed freedoms and autonomy for 50 years after its handover.Britain views the law as a breach of that handover deal and in response has said it will look into extending the immigration rights of those with BN(O) status, including a possible “path to citizenship”.There are currently some 350,000 BN(O) passport holders — a figure that nearly doubled in the last twelve months during as the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters raged.But some 2.9 million people — anyone born before 1997 — are eligible for BN(O) status and Britain has said any citizenship plan will also include them.The announcement has sparked fury in Beijing which has in turn accused London of breaching its handover commitments.In recent weeks Hong Kongers have flocked to sign up, forming queues outside post offices and courier companies to send documents.But Ng says he faces a dilemma — neither his wife, nor their two children have BN(O) status and Britain has yet to say whether family will be included.”I am propelled to leave but I am also helpless, like being pushed into the sea with no boat to board,” Ng said. As a result Britain offered anyone born before handover the option of applying for a BN(O) passport. The document was of limited value. It gave Hong Kongers access to British consular services overseas and permission to travel to the UK for up to six months at a time, but not to live or work there.But it was recognition that Britain had some sort of responsibility to the people who were once its subjects.Now the usefulness of the document could all change after China last month unveiled plans to enact a law banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign interference.
The government plans to start in-person training courses in August under its preemployment card program, despite the daily surge in new COVID-19 cases since it started easing the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) in early June.“We hope to open [the courses] in areas unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic or in those [areas] where the situation has improved, all while complying with the health protocols,” Rudy Salahuddin, who heads the program’s job creation management committee, said at a virtual press conference on Monday.The government has announced its plan amid the worsening trend in the nation’s COVID-19 daily tally, which has surpassed 1,000 cases since June. The country recorded 1,282 new cases on Monday and 1,591 new cases on Tuesday, with official data showing 78,572 cumulative cases to date. The program has eight digital platform “partners” to offer around 3,800 online training courses and a monthly allowance on completion of the training component. Eligible applicants are workers who have been laid off or furloughed as a direct economic impact of the health crisis, as well as owners of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).The government on July 8 issued Presidential Regulation (Perpres) No. 76/2020, under which the program was expanded to include offline training courses.Susiwijono Moegiarso, secretary to the Coordinating Economic Minister, said on Monday that the Perpres was intended to revive the preemployment card following its suspension in response to the Corruption Eradication Commission’s (KPK) report on irregularities in the program.The government is now aiming to reopen registration in late July for up to 500,000 applicants.Read also: KPK highlights inefficiency, mismanagement in preemployment card programSince its launch in mid-April, the preemployment card program has attracted 11.3 million applicants across the country and accepted 680,000 eligible participants, around half of whom are laid-off workers.“Many factors are pushing us to roll out the program’s next phase as soon as possible,” said Susiwijono, citing the high number of layoffs and the economic slowdown as among the factors.The pandemic has caused Indonesia’s economic growth to contract to 2.97 percent in the first quarter, the slowest pace in 19 years, due to the slump in consumption and investment.In response, many businesses took downsizing measures that resulted in 3 million layoffs and furloughs by May, according to the Manpower Ministry’s data.“This includes laid-off and furloughed workers and [SME] owners whose businesses were hit by COVID-19,” said Bambag Satrio Lelono, the Manpower Ministry’s director general for training and productivity supervision.Read also: Jobs card may not help people find workThe preemployment card program prioritizes disbursing its cash allowance of Rp 3.5 million (US$242.71) per eligible participant according to the Manpower Ministry’s registry.With a budget of Rp 20 trillion for this year, the program can assist up to 5.6 million eligible participants in staying afloat during the health crisis.As of July 14, Indonesia recorded the 26th highest number of COVID-19 cases among 213 affected countries in the world.Topics : Also on Monday, director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the World Health Organization cautioned at its daily press briefing that “too many countries are headed in the wrong direction”.Read also: Govt issues new regulation for belabored preemployment cardRegardless, the plan to start holding offline courses is in keeping with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s push to transition to the so-called new normal phase, which aims to reopen the economy while maintaining strict health protocols.The preemployment card program is one of Jokowi’s reelection campaign promises and was originally designed as an upskilling and reskilling program. The government redesigned it as an incentivized training program earlier this year as part of its COVID-19 safety net strategy.