As the ninth week of the legislature closes, I realize that we are half way through the session. And we have a lot of work left to do.
This past week we passed 10 bills. H581 and H582 concerned eligibility and funding for the Internet Connectivity Initiative, which will bring internet to all of Vermont. H571 created the combined Department of Liquor and Lottery. H576 dealt with stormwater management permitting. H828 dealt with the timing of when candidates file their finances prior to the elections.
The most contentious bill and the one with the most press was H636. It dealt with coyote hunting competitions and the fines that would be imposed. The issue was whether or not to have any prison time associated with the infraction. The bill passed with this section deleted.
H892 is a bill that came out of my committee. It pertains to both “Short term limited duration health insurance plans” and “association plans.” This is the first of several Health Care Committee bills. Back in October, the president declared that STLDHIP plans should be more available up to just short of a year and renewable as a way to open up the insurance market. This type of insurance was intended as an alternative to COBRA but it does not meet the requirements for the individual mandate because they do not cover all pre-existing conditions. Vermont has chosen keep them at three months and nonrenewable. “Association plans” are when several groups come together to create a plan for their employees. These plans would be new to Vermont.
Other committee bills we are working on:
1. Certificate of need process used by the Green Mountain Care Board: The question is if this process provides a valuable service to Vermonters. After testimony, it is clear that it does.
2. Bill back: This looks at changes to the methodology used by the GMCB to determine the amount the entities it regulates pay. It also covers who they can regulate.
3. Health information exchange: The state contracted the operation of our Health Information Exchange to Vermont Information Technology Leaders. VITL will submit a work plan detailing how they will implement the recommendations put forth by Health Tech Solutions to correct the deficiencies they found in the system. The plan states that there must be a contingency plan if they are unable to adequately provide the service.
4. Developing a state individual mandate.
Other issues to watch for are gun safety, education finance and the state retirement system.
REP. LORI HOUGHTON
Many good bills came out of committees in this last week before crossover, but gun violence prevention legislation took center stage.
The gun violence prevention legislation passed by the House included four critical parts: 1) It would put current practice into law which gives the judge discretion to require any individual who is a risk to themselves or others to turn over weapons as a condition of pre-trial release, 2) Empowers a state’s attorney or the attorney general’s office to petition a court to issue an order temporarily restricting a person’s access to guns when they pose a danger to self or others (commonly called a ‘red flag’ bill), 3) Provides protection to a victim of domestic assault by allowing a law enforcement officer, in certain circumstances, to remove a firearm from the scene if the removal is necessary for the protection of the officer, the victim, or another person, and 4) Creates a felony charge for the possession of a firearm on school grounds with intent to harm.
The red flag portion of the bill passed by the House differs from the Senate’s extreme risk protection bill in two key ways: 1) the House requires preponderance of evidence; the Senate version requires clear and convincing evidence and 2) guns may be kept for up to a year in the House version; 60 days in the Senate version.
These two bills, known as H675 and S221, will be reconciled between the bodies in the coming weeks. Additionally the Senate passed S.55, which requires mandatory background checks for private gun sales and raises the minimum legal age to purchase a gun from 16 to 21. This legislation will head to the House.
In the healthcare committee, on which I serve, we have focused on changes made at the federal level that would impact the stability of the Vermont market as well as needed legislation around the Green Mountain Care Board, our Health Information Exchange and the all payer model. Friday we voted out a bill that will head to the House floor that I’m very passionate about – breast cancer screening. Currently screening by a mammogram is considered preventative so no co-pay or deductible is charged. However, if a person is called back for further review or comes in for that initial mammogram because they have symptoms the screening is considered diagnostic and co-pays/deductibles are charged. Our bill will require all breast cancer screening be covered without co-pays and deductibles. Rep. Betsy Dunn sponsored this legislation and myself and 45 other representations co-sponsored. I look forward to the vote on the House floor.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve Essex Jct. Please reach out with questions, concerns and ideas.