Vermont Legislative Update: Adjournment Nears

Vermont-Montpelier-Vermont-State-House-BuildingThe Vermont Legislature is wrapping up many issues as they set to adjourn in mid-May. While there are disagreements on a number of bills, including marijuana legalization, one observer notes “the level of discord inside the Statehouse has been relatively mild. That’s particularly surprising given the heavily Democratic makeup of the legislature and a Republican serving on the fifth floor”.

You can get a solid overview by listening to VPR’s interview with Senate President Tim Ashe last week. (VPR/Kinsel) And don’t miss the latest Legislative Committee coverage from ORCAMedia.

The FY18 Budget: On a vote of 7-0, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a $5.8 billion budget on Friday that closes a $72 million projected gap between revenues and expenditures in the 2018 fiscal year. The bill constitutes one percent growth in spending over FY 2017 taking into account all funds, including federal, transportation and education fund sources. The bill differs significantly from the House version passed in late March. Among its provisions, the bill:

  • Restores proposed reductions in Agency of Human Services grants to nonprofits organizations;
  • Rejects $1 million requested by the governor to help pay for a $35 million bond for affordable housing;
  • Consolidates teachers’ retirement payments with other education expenditures;
  • Increases funding for mental health services;
  • Reduces Disproportionate Share Hospital payments by $10 million (payments to hospitals that serve a large number of Medicaid and uninsured individuals); and
  • Increases funding for the Vermont State Colleges by $3.8 million. (DRM)

Paid Family Leave: It has little chance of becoming law this session, but the House Ways and Means Committee has advanced H.196, a bill that would create a program to pay partial wages to persons taking time off from work for the birth of a child or illness of a close relative. The bill passed on a divided vote, 7-4. Under the version passed by the committee, employees would be entitled to as many as six weeks of paid leave at 80 percent of their normal wage. The bill exempts businesses with ten or fewer employees and would require people to be employed for at least a year before qualifying for the benefit. Financing for the plan would come from a 0.141 percent payroll tax paid by the employee, but an employer may elect to pay the employee’s contribution. Since the bill missed the legislature’s “crossover date” by a wide margin, it is unlikely to be taken up in the Senate this session but could be considered in 2018. (DRM)

Pot Ahead? The Vermont Senate passed a bill legalizing marijuana Friday in a 21-9 vote, but that doesn’t mean the path is clear for legal marijuana in this state. Senator Tim Ashe indicated that it not likely to pass this session. (VPR/Elder-Connors)

Education Finance: A Senate panel advanced one key revenue bill Monday evening but put off action on education finance legislation. The seven-member Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed the miscellaneous tax bill, H.516, which raises about $5 million through increased compliance with existing tax laws. Such harmony does not exist around the other major fiscal legislation in the committee, in part because of a proposal in the 2018 budget that passed Senate Appropriations late Friday shifting an $8 million expense into the education fund. (VTDigger/Hewitt)

Smoke in Your Eyes: The Vermont Senate on Tuesday shot down a last-ditch attempt to raise the state’s smoking age from 18 to 21.  The bill was set aside earlier this month to give supporters time to round up enough ‘yes’ votes. But when it returned to the floor Tuesday, it was defeated by a vote of 13 to 16. (Seven Days/Freese)

Federal Farm Bill: Lawmakers are seeking ideas and concerns that might help Vermont farmers as Congress begins to take up the federal farm bill, set to expire in 2018. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in federal subsidies, and some say the fate of Vermont’s dairy industry itself. Lawmakers in Washington, including Vermont’s Congressional delegation, are keeping a close eye on developments, including proposals by President Trump for deep budget cuts. (VTDigger/Polhamus

Education Finance: A Senate panel advanced one key revenue bill Monday evening but put off action on education finance legislation. The seven-member Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed the miscellaneous tax bill, H.516, which raises about $5 million through increased compliance with existing tax laws. Such harmony does not exist around the other major fiscal legislation in the committee, in part because of a proposal in the 2018 budget that passed Senate Appropriations late Friday shifting an $8 million expense into the education fund. (VTDigger/Hewitt)

Doctors Unite: Independent doctors have started an organization in Vermont dedicated to helping them keep their small practices in the face of what they consider pressure to sell out to hospitals. Doctors have created a Vermont chapter of the Association of Independent Doctors, a national nonprofit organization started in Florida in 2013 that says, “We fight a fight that doctors have neither the time, means, nor clout to pursue.” (VTDigger/ Mansfield)

Green Mountain Care Board: Gov. Phil Scott’s chief budget writer will leave his post at the end of June to take a job as the director of health system finances for the Green Mountain Care Board. Andy Pallito will succeed Mike Davis, a longtime hospital budget guru who has regulated Vermont’s 14 hospital budgets under the board and its regulatory predecessors, including the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration. Davis is retiring. (VTDigger/ Hewitt)

Vermont Leads in Public Health Readiness: For the second year running, Vermont scored highest among the 50 states and District of Columbia in public health protection readiness, according to the new National Health Security Preparedness Index. The Index measures the nation’s ability to keep people safe and healthy in the event of epidemics, foodborne disease outbreaks, terrorism and other large-scale public health emergencies. Overall, Vermont scored 7.8 out of 10 points, compared to the national average of 6.8.  (Vermont Business Magazine

P.S. Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables: At a recent meeting, we were reviewing the data from last year’sBehavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS). We learned that fruit and vegetable consumption, one of the key indicators to whether Vermonters are eating healthy foods, is lower than we would like it to be. It is recommended that children and adults eat at least two servings of fruit each day and at least three servings of vegetables. In 2015, 32% of Vermonters ate 2 or more servings of fruit per day, down from 35% in 2013. Vegetable consumption is even lower, although we saw a 2 point increase between 2013 and 2015: 20% of Vermonters ate 3 or more vegetables a day in 2015 compared to 18% in 2013. We are concerned about these numbers because we know consuming fruits and vegetables can protect against chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and many cancers, as well as help with weight control. (Vermont Department of Health)

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

facebooktwitterlinkedinmailfacebooktwitterlinkedinmail
Comments are closed.