Here is our take on some of the news making headlines recently:

A thumbs up that across destinations nationwide, the U.S. travel industry will welcome vaccinated international visitors back to the United States after 19 months of pandemic-related border restrictions. That includes our neighbors to the north. Beginning on Monday, international inbound travel will bring visitors and their wallets to Vermont and elsewhere.

We need it. The nation needs it.

In 2019, international inbound travel produced $239 billion in export income for the U.S. economy and directly supported 1.2 million American jobs.

“After nearly two years of restrictions, Monday begins in earnest the return of international travel, when long-separated families and friends can safely reunite, travelers can explore this amazing country, and the U.S. is able to reconnect with the global community,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow. “It is a monumental day for travelers, for the communities and businesses that rely on international visitation, and for the U.S. economy overall.”

U.S. Travel estimates that declines in international visitation since the start of the pandemic (March 2020-October 2021) resulted in nearly $300 billion in lost export income and a loss of more than one million American jobs. The association also estimates that the international inbound travel segment will not recover to 2019 levels until at least 2024.

A thumbs down to the Vermont State Police who currently have 11 matters requiring internal investigations.

The Vermont Department of Public Safety and the State Police Advisory Commission released a detailed summary of the internal investigations involving troopers.

“The release of these detailed synopses began in January 2021 and is designed to provide greater transparency, public awareness and oversight to the activities of the Vermont State Police, while balancing rules regarding internal investigations and the need to have internal investigations completed before public dissemination,” a news release about the reports indicates..

The report shows that of the 11 cases, eight came to the attention of supervisors due to internal reporting by members of the state police, while three matters arose through concerns raised by community members.

According to the release, three of the complaints were determined to have represented no violation of VSP policy by the member in question. The other eight complaints either were substantiated, or the trooper involved resigned before the internal investigation concluded. The complaints in this category included instances related to accidental firearms discharge; off-duty alcohol consumption; violations of COVID-19 safety protocols; mistreatment of other troopers; discourteousness with the public; inaccuracies in a traffic ticket; and an instance of domestic assault. Sanctions for the substantiated violations ranged from letters of reprimand to termination of employment.

While we appreciate the investigation into the investigations, we wish they were not necessary in the first place. This just gives critics of law enforcement way too much fodder.

Thumbs up to Congressman Peter Welch who has been leading a fight in recent days to ensure the Build Back Better Act includes a plan for lower prescription drug prices — a cause that his Vermont colleague in the U.S. Senate has been espousing for years, including during two runs for the White House.

Earlier this week, the White House and congressional Democrats announced they had reached a compromise agreement on prescription drug pricing reforms to be included in the Build Back Better Act. The agreement includes a provision to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for lower drug prices, which is currently prohibited by law.

This provision has been championed by Welch throughout his 15 years in Congress and is a significant step forward in protecting consumers from price gouging by pharmaceutical companies. The agreement also will cap the cost of insulin for consumers at $35 per month; limit pharmaceutical companies from raising prices beyond the rate of inflation; and directly lower out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors citizens

The Build Back Better Act, with the drug pricing agreement included, is expected to be considered by the House of Representatives in the coming days. We hope it passes.

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