2018 Washington County Legislative Delegation
Congressional Delegation 2017 – 2018 115th Congress
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Legislative Update- March 30, 2018
Profile in Courage
The atmosphere inside the Statehouse has been tense for weeks as a gun control measure wound through the process while dozens, if not hundreds, of advocates on both sides of the issue milled the hallways. Vermont’s Statehouse has wide-open access and few security measures, which added to the tension as angry gun owners roamed the hallways.
Despite the fierce opposition, a bill reached the governor’s desk this week, and in dramatic fashion Gov. Phil Scott signed it on the Statehouse steps in front of a crowd of raucous opponents and jubilant supporters.
Scott’s decision to sign the bill in public, and to give a speech that was aimed in part at the bill’s opponents, was an act of political courage not seen in Montpelier in a very long time. It is not uncommon for governors to sign highly controversial measures in private. Gov. Howard Dean, for example, privately signed a highly contentious bill in 2000 to authorize civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. (A later bill authorizing same-sex marriage in 2009 – which was equally controversial – was adopted by legislative override of Gov. Jim Douglas’s veto).
The boldness of Scott’s decision is underscored by the naked politics of gun control measures. Unlike Dean and civil unions, Scott was squarely rejecting his party’s position on a high-profile issue. Every Senate Republican voted against S.55, as did virtually all House Republicans. And it is fair to assume that an equally large majority of gun advocates in Vermont supported Scott in the last election.
The gun issue seemed to give Scott a greater sense of confidence as a political leader. Not known for his oratorical skills, his bill-signing speech was delivered with greater passion and skill than perhaps any other address he has made.
It is possible, perhaps, to take a cynical perspective on Scott’s position and argue that it simply reflected the desires of a majority of Vermonters, and therefore is in his best political interests. But races are lost in primaries as well as general elections, and his decision to contravene his base has already generated interest among potential candidates. He could easily have followed the party line and opposed the bill without facing much political backlash.
Despite bucking his party, most Republicans in the end are unlikely to abandon Scott over a single issue. He has steadfastly – even stubbornly – held to his “no tax/no fee” pledge. And he has kept mainstream Republican views on most issues (although notably rejecting national party positions on social issues such as climate change, gay rights and immigration).
In an era of national voter cynicism and distrust, Vermonters are likely to react favorably to Scott’s decision to ignore political calculations and take a position based on what clearly was a personal and firmly-held view about what is in the state’s best interests.
(Picture on the left) Facing cheers and shouts of protest, Gov. Scott gives a 25-minute address detailing his reasons for signing three gun bills.
(Picture on the right) Gov. Scott signs the bills in front of the statehouse.
Panel Makes Political Decision to Separate Drug Provisions: Both Advance
Concerned that prescription drug importation could stall in the House Appropriations Committee, House Health Care Committee Chair Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, on Friday announced his intention to add the prescription drug transparency provisions of S.175 to S.92, a bill related to interchangeable biological products. S.175 as passed only deals with prescription drug importation. Read more
Committee Adopts Weakened Net Neutrality Bill
Following weeks of deliberation and testimony, the House Energy and Telecommunications Committee voted 5-3 on Thursday to approve an amendment that significantly weakens a Senate-passed bill, S.289, regarding net neutrality. Read more
House Committee Takes up Strict Liability Bill
The House Judiciary Committee spent much of two days this week hearing testimony on a highly controversial bill, S.197, that would create strict liability for any harm resulting from the release of hazardous or toxic substances. Read more
House Advances Provider Enrollment Bill
The House this week approved S.282, a bill that requires the Department of Vermont Health Access to screen and enroll applicants seeking to become participating providers in the Medicaid program within 60 days after receiving an application. The bill takes effect July 1, 2019. If the department is not able to meet the 60-day timeframe, DVHA will convene stakeholders before Feb. 1, 2019 to provide an update on its efforts and the barriers to meeting the deadline and additional resources it needs. Read more
Committee Advances VITL Oversight Bill
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Friday passed H.901, a bill that holds the Department of Vermont Health Access accountable for the Vermont Health Information Exchange. Read more
Panel Begins Work on Universal Primary Care
The House Health Care Committee on Thursday heard testimony on S.53, a bill that would lay the groundwork for a state-based universal primary care program. Read more
House Advances Prescription Drug Repository Bill
The full House this week passed S.164, a bill that requires a study of the feasibility of creating an unused prescription drug repository program. The intent of the legislation is to allow health care facilities to repurpose unused prescription drugs that meet all quality standards at a very low cost. Read more
Committee Split over Automatic Renewal Legislation
The Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee appeared to be divided this week over a House-passed bill, H.593, that would require consumers to separately approve any contract provision that provides for automatic renewal of contracts that last longer than one year. Read more
“Right to Repair” Bill Taken Up by House Panel
The House Commerce and Economic Development Committee this week began taking testimony on S.180, a “right to repair” bill passed last month by the Senate. Read more
Rep. Browning Urges Study of Fossil Fuel Subsidies
The House-passed budget bill contains a $120,000 appropriation for a study of carbon cap and trade scenarios across the northeast states, but Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, suggested on Wednesday that fossil fuel subsidies in Vermont should be examined first. Read more
Panel Passes Green Mountain Care Board Priority Bill
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Friday passed H.912, a bill that revises the certificate of need process for hospitals and other health care facilities. Read more
Panel Considers Study Rather Than Changes to Minimum Insurance Standards on Ride-Sharing Bill
After additional testimony this week, the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee appears less inclined to increase minimum insurance standards included in House and Senate-passed bill, H.143, that would impose new requirements on ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber. Read more
Charities and Schools Worried About Tax Credit Cap
President of the UVM Foundation Shane Jacobsen this week added his voice to a chorus of concerns over a provision in the House-passed tax bill, H.911, that would cap a state tax credit for charitable donations at five percent of $10,000. Read more
Citizens Suits Struck From Water Quality Bill
In a move considered more of strategy than policy, the House Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife Committee late Friday approved a version of S.260, a bill relating to water quality funding, that would eliminate a Senate-passed provision allowing private citizens to sue a potentially responsible party for enforcement of water quality laws. Read more
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