by Angela Chagnon
A Republican representative claims that he and the two other Republicans on his committee were excluded from a joint hearing with the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that took place on Wednesday.
In a letter addressed to Rep. Mark Larson, Chair of the House Health Care Committee, Rep. Jim Eckhardt (R-Chittenden) wrote, “Rep. Mary Morrissey, Rep. Vicky Strong, and I were in the State House all day and were not notified of this meeting.”
Eckhardt goes on to say that all three Republicans had received an e-mail at 7am Wednesday morning informing them that a committee meeting would not be held that day. Eckhardt also says that he checked the committee meeting schedule “to ensure that no meetings were scheduled.”
I passed you and other Representatives from the House Health Care Committee dozens of times during the morning and nothing was said. Yet I heard from Senator Kevin Mullin [R-Rutland] at approx. 4:00pm yesterday that a meeting was held around noon between the House and the Senate Health Care Committees to discuss S.15 and S.104.
S.15 would require midwifery services and home births to be covered by health insurance. Interestingly, the bill also contains a provision to establish the “Birth Information Network” (see True North Reports article here). S.15 passed the House Wednesday.
S.104 concerns a ban on gifts from pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Eckhardt further wrote that he was “not convinced” of Larson’s explanation regarding the exclusion of every Republican on the committee from the hearing. He concludes, “I am deeply upset that I was not allowed to properly represent the voters of my district.”
“Usually we are notified, and we check our emails when committee meetings are happening,” said Rep. Mary Morrissey (R-Bennington). “We checked it in the morning and had no notification that anything was going on. To my surprise I found that we were meeting about the bills.”
Other committee members that had attended the meeting said that they hadn’t noticed that the three Republican members were not present. Morrissey and Eckhardt did not think that their explanation was adequate.
“I don’t accept his explanation or any other committee members [explanations],” Eckhardt remarked. “There were enough senior members in the room, they should have known that we should’ve been there.”
True North Reports contacted Larson via e-mail to hear his side of the story. Larson merely responded, “I have spoken with Jim about his concerns and believe that they have been resolved.”
After Larson’s response, True North Reports spoke with Eckhardt to see whether the issue had been resolved as Larson had claimed. Eckhardt said that he had spoken with the Chair, and that Larson had apologized. But the issue was far from resolved.
“An apology isn’t enough,” said Eckhardt. “The bills went to the floor without our input.”