The daily schedule has definitely changed. We spent much of our week on the house floor voting on bills that passed out of committee prior to crossover. In the healthcare committee we had two bills pass over to the Senate: H83 Act relating to female genital cutting (FGC) and H528 The Rural Health Services Task Force.
Regarding H83, In 1996 Congress passed legislation prohibiting female genital cutting (FGC). This past fall, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed a case against two doctors and others who were charged with violating the statute. The judge found that Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit FGC because under our federal system of government, local criminal activity is for the states to regulate, not Congress. The case is on appeal, but the District Court ruling is likely to reduce or eliminate the chances of it being used by federal prosecutors around the country, and signals that the states need to regulate FGC if they want to prohibit the act. This is an important piece of legislation.
Regarding H528, rural health care systems are facing challenges all throughout the country. More than 100 rural hospitals have closed in the US since 2010, and here in Vermont at least one critical-access hospital is facing financial crisis. While we are concerned about the future of Vermont’s rural hospitals, we also recognize that the rural health care continuum consists of many more service providers than just hospitals. These service providers are often interwoven into networks of care. So H528 creates a Task Force to bring together representatives from the different components of the rural health care continuum, and would ask the members of the Task Force to think boldly about the future of this system.
A bill of importance to many in our community and the broader state is H531 - an act relating to Vermont’s child care and early learning system. The House Human Services committee voted unanimously out of committee and is headed to the house floor this week. The Human Services Committee views this legislation as a first step in addressing the current child care crisis in Vermont. If it becomes law, it will be part of a multi-year strategy to improve and strengthen child care laws and regulations, a priority of both the Legislature and the Administration. H. 531, does the following:
I’m excited to share two upcoming events:
Please join the Essex Democrats Open House, Saturday March 30th 6-7:30 at Brownell Library, Kolvoord Room, 6 Lincoln St Essex Junction. Local residents are invited to learn more about the Essex Democrats, consider joining the committee, meet current members, and get up to speed on issues. This event is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served. See the facebook event link here for more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/2196573720606128/.
Our next community conversation will be April 13th from 8:00am to 9:30am at Sweet Alchemy located at 45 Upper Main St. This is a time to talk with your Essex area representatives about issues of importance to you.
I look forward to hearing from residents, so please reach out with comments or questions! Thank you for the continued opportunity to serve Essex Junction!
We are now in the middle of our Town Meeting week break. Thank you to all who come out to the Town of Essex meeting on Monday night to vote on the budget – which passed. Thanks also to all who voted yesterday for Selectboard. Patrick Murray and Annie Cooper were elected to the Essex Selectboard. Congratulations to both. Thank you to Irene Wrenner for her many years of service.
The Village of Essex Junction will hold our annual meeting April 3rd at Essex High School. This is the time we vote on the municipal budget. A free community dinner begins at 6pm with the meeting beginning at 7pm.
Essex Westford School District will hold their annual meeting Monday April 8th at 7pm at the Essex High School Auditorium. Voting on the budget occurs April 9th from 7am to 7pm.
Back to the Statehouse. The House is currently working on the FY2020 budget. The House is on target to advance this budget proposal shortly after our break. The budget will be balanced – to meet the needs of Vermonters while keeping ongoing spending in check. While building the budget, the House Appropriations Committee goes deep into the numbers, hearing testimony from all state-related entities. They look at old and new initiatives to ensure they are accountable and provide value for the residents of Vermont. They question proposed reductions, as well increases, position changes, perceived program delivery hurdles, use of "one-time" money, and "vacancy savings." They seek the input from all policy committees and testimony from advocates. I'll be reporting more on the budget in coming weeks.
Two bills relating to tobacco and E-Cigarettes passed their respective chambers. In December 2018, the Surgeon General declared an epidemic regarding e-cigarette use among teens. This action was prompted by new data showing a 78-percent increase in e-cigarette use among high school students in just one year's time (2017-2018). In that same timeframe, middle school use increased by 48 percent. Teens who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to become regular tobacco users. The Vermont House voted to pass H47, which places an excise tax on the liquids and delivery devices of e-cigarettes to discourage use among youth who are the most price-sensitive consumers. Just as we tax other tobacco products, 92 percent of the wholesale value of the e-cigarettes will be collected at the licensed distributor level and used for prevention purposes. The Senate passed S86 which increases the legal age for buying and using cigarettes, e-cigarettes and other tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age. Both of these bills have crossed over to the other chamber for testimony and action.
Our next community conversation will be March 17th at 2:00pm at The Nest Café on Main St in the Village. This is a time to talk with your Essex area representatives about issues of importance to you.
I look forward to hearing from residents, so please reach out with comments or questions anytime through the contact section on the website or firstname.lastname@example.org.VT.us.
Thank you for the continued opportunity to serve Essex Junction.