Legislative Preview

Week of 2-21 to 2-14

by Rob Roper 

With the Town Meeting Day break almost upon us, the unofficial half-way point in the legislative session, folks under the Golden Dome will be scrambling to finish up work on the bills they hope to pass over to the other chamber in time to become law in 2012.

The House Agriculture Committee, which has been working almost exclusively on H. 496 – An act relating to preserving Vermont’s working landscape, appears to have looked up at the calendar and proclaimed, holy cow, look at the time!On Wednesday they will take up in rapid succession between 9:00 am and 10:30 am … H. 681 – An act relating to promoting small-scale dairies; H. 700 – An act relating to curbing the spread of invasive plant speciesH. 711 – An act relating to animal investigators and sheltering livestock;H. 722 – An act relating to the labeling of food produced with genetic engineering; H.728 – An act relating to the humane treatment and slaughter of animals (isn’t that an oxymoron?); and H. 733 – An act relating to the liability of owners of genetically engineered seeds.

The upshot of all this: weeds get pulled, cows get butchered and traditional farmers get… much more complicated lives.

The House Human Services Committee will discuss H. 745 – An act relating to the Vermont prescription monitoring system. This bill proposes to require health care providers to search the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System (VPMS) prior to prescribing a controlled substance. In addition, it expands the category of people who may access the VPMS. This bill also creates a unified pain management system advisory council.

While the abuse of prescription drugs is a huge problem that deserves concern, is the formation of another committee (this one of thirteen members) really a productive way to go?

Senate Education will take more testimony on S. 201 – An act relating to expanding public school choice for elementary and high school students. There are high hopes for expanded school choice this year. The governor has signaled that he wants a bill. Independent schools have testified they want to be included. Will they be able to pass something out and send it to the House? If so, in what shape.

Senate Ed will also take testimony this week from Auditor Tom Salmon regarding embezzlement in the public schools. Now, that should be interesting.

The most interesting bill on the agenda this week is S. 207 – An act relating to preconditions for Green Mountain Care implementation. This was introduced by Senators Hinda Miller (D-Chittenden) and Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland) and builds on language Mullin was successful in placing in Act 48 in 2011.

The conditions S.207 would place on Green Mountain care are as follows:

(A) Each Vermont resident covered by Green Mountain Care will receive benefits with an actuarial value of 80 percent or greater.

(B) When implemented, Green Mountain Care will not have a negative aggregate impact on Vermont’s economy. This determination shall bebased on an analysis of the impact of implementation on economic growth,including on jobs by sector and wage level and on self-employed individuals.

(C) The financing for Green Mountain Care is sustainable. Thisdetermination shall be based on a finding that projected revenues and expensesfor a 10-year period will not result in shortfalls as a result of economic factorsor insufficient federal or state funding.

(D) Administrative expenses currently borne by health care providersand health insurerswill be reduced at levels that exceed the expected savingsfrom the Blueprint for Health.

(E) Cost-containment efforts will result in a reduction in the rate of growth in Vermont’s per-capita health care spending without reducing accessto necessary care or resulting in wait times for services in excess of whatpatients experience in 2011.

(F) Health care professionals will be reimbursed at levels sufficient to allow Vermont to recruit and retain high-quality health care professionals.

What is so interesting about this bill is that it illustrates exactly what all the proponents say a single payer healthcare system will accomplish… and threatens to reveal how all of those things cannot coexist in the same package. A plan that guarantees every Vermonter benefits with an 80% actuarial value or greater and pays doctors a competitive wage will bust the budget. It will kill the economy. It will not be sustainable. It will not contain costs.

Let’s hope this one passes. If it doesn’t, it will tell us a lot about what the those voting against it really think the impact and the efficacy of GMC is going to be.