Weekly Legislative Preview

by Rob Roper

We are not that far away on the calendar from April 27, the day Speaker of the House, Shap Smith, has targeted for the end of the 2012 legislative session. The action is ratcheting up in the committees to get everything done that needs to be done (and, quite frankly, a lot of stuff that really should never be done, but….)

One bill that caught my eye this week is S. 95 – An actrelating to exemptions for newspaper deliverers from the unemployment statutes; relieving an employer’s experience rating record of charges; studying the receipt of unemployment compensation between academic terms; allowing school employees to be paid wages over the course of a year; and requiring employers to furnish required work apparel. It caught my eye simply because it is the longest title to a bill that I can recall, and any bill that has the Worker’s Center showing up to testify raises an antenna.

It’s a tremendously busybodyish thing covering, as the title implies, a number of topics. Are non-educational school employees “unemployed” over the summer and entitled to benefits? They seem to want them. And, talk about micromanaging a small business from under the Golden Dome, a segment that dictates, “An employer that requires its employees to wear apparel which displays the employer’s trademark, logo, or other identifying characteristic, or that requires its employees to wear apparel sold or produced by the employer shall furnish and replace as necessary at least one week’s worth of apparel free of charge to the employees.”

Now, this sounds all well and good. Seem like a fair thing for an employer to do. However, why does the government feel it has to get involved in stuff like this? Or, on the other hand, why shouldn’t they force ALL employers furnish their employees with proper clothing for the workplace? Enough already.

Many bills are coming up for votes in their respective committees, including H. 468 -An act relating to the Vermont Energy Act of 2012. Just about every business organization in the state has spoken out repeatedly against this thing, but our “representatives” do not seem to be listening. The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs will vote on H. 730 – An act relating to miscellaneous consumer protection laws, and S. 137 – An act relating to workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation. Always an important and controversial subject.

The House Healthcare committee will vote on S. 236 – An act relating to health care practitioner signature authority. This bill proposes to allow the signature of an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) certified as a nurse practitioner to be used whenever the signature of a physician is required. They will also vote on S. 223 – An act relating to health insurance coverage for early childhood development disorders, including autism spectrum disorders. This is the bill that will force insurers to cover autism related costs until children reach the age of 21. Again, more micromanaging of private business that will no doubt lead to higher insurance premiums.

Speaking of insurance companies, the House Healthcare Committee will be marking up and voting on S. 200 – An act relating to the reporting requirements of health insurers. The purpose of this bill is “to expand health insurers’ reporting obligations in their annual reports and under the Vermont healthcare claims uniform reporting and evaluation system.” This will force health insurers to report on the number of denials of service they issue. Again, sounds perfectly reasonable and who wouldn’t want to know. However, this bill has the feel of being all political, less to enlighten than to demonize an industry the state wants to destroy and replace with single payer.

Sen. Judiciary will be voting on H. 745 – An act relating to the Vermont prescription monitoring system, which will require health care providers to search the 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.

House Fish & Wildlife will vote on S. 148 – An act relating to expediting development of small and micro hydroelectric projects, a bill that proposes “to require the commissioner of public service, in consultation with the secretary of natural resources, to enter into an agreement with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a pilot project to expedite development of small hydroelectric plants.

And, Senate Finance will mark up and vote on H. 782 – An act relating to miscellaneous tax changes for 2012. This bill proposes to make numerous changes to Vermont’s tax code. This 37 page bill is too complicated for a quick encapsulation here, but it is worth taking taking a minute to a look at.