As we enter what is likely to be the last week of the session, the activity on the House and Senate chambers has picked up. Many bills passed out this week and you can find a full list HERE. I’ve summarized just a few below.
The Healthcare Committee continued their focus on prescription drug pricing by passing out S175 an act relating to the wholesale importation of prescription drugs into Vermont. The intent is to import the prescription drugs that would provide a substantial savings to Vermonters. This bill requires the Agency of Human Services to design a wholesale drug importation program that ensures the safety of our prescription drug market by continuing to follow the US FDA safety standards and the tracking and tracing of prescription drugs as laid out in federal regulation and will prohibit distribution outside Vermont. Once the agency designs the program they will submit a formal request to the Federal Health and Human Services agency for a waiver. There is a provision in federal law that allows for the issuance of this waiver, and we can’t move forward without it. The National Academy of State Health Policies, who is currently working with Utah on similar legislation, is making available the template and design process to Vermont at no cost. Congressman Welch, Senator Sanders and a representative for Senator Leahy all testified in our commitment and pledged their support for S175 and will provide their assistance at the federal level. This bill passed the House on a vote of 141-2.
The House gave preliminary approval to S260 the Clean Water Bill on a vote 94-48. S260 creates a Clean Water Fund Board to study and recommend long-term funding sources for water cleanup in our state. If a long term funding source is not found by 2020, this bill provides for two funding sources – a 0.25% increase in rooms and meals tax and moving uncollected beverage disposal deposits to the fund. As the House Speaker stated in her press release “There are currently over 350 water segments in Vermont that need water quality improvement. Our waters are a vital component of our communities, our industries and our traditions. Vermonters deserve a Vermont that works for all of us. That includes clean water, and this bill takes vital steps to ensure our lakes, rivers and streams remain healthy for future generations.”
The House also gave preliminary approval on a vote of 135-0 to S261 an act relating to mitigating trauma and toxic stress during childhood by strengthening child and family resilience. Although we don’t have a clear estimate of the monetary costs in Vermont (in 2012 a CDC study estimated the cost of child maltreatment at $128 billion), we do know that Vermont is not immune from the ravages of childhood adversity. The latest research shows 24% of our children have an adverse childhood experience (ACE) score of 2 or more, while the US national average is 22% of children. Generational poverty, addiction, homelessness and incarceration continue to plaque our children and families – and in too many cases the root cause is childhood trauma. It is the purpose of this act to ensure a consistent family support system by enhancing opportunities to build resilience among families throughout the State that are experiencing the causes or symptoms of childhood adversity. While significant efforts to provide preventative services are already under way in many parts of the state, better coordination is necessary to ensure that gaps in services are addressed and redundancies do not occur.
If you have questions on these bills or anything else, please attend our next community conversation Monday May 21st at the Essex Senior Center. Representative Giambatista and I have held these conversations throughout our two sessions and we look forward to the opportunity to talk with constituents. Can't attend but still have a question - reach out directly email@example.com or through the contact session on my website.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve Essex Junction. I look forward to being back in the community more once the session ends and hope to see you around the Village.
I believe this past week was the calm before the storm. We have only a few weeks left in the session and week 15 was a quiet one. We did pass S92 which puts in place strengthened prescription drug transparency rules, allows pharmacists to provide information on lower drug costs at the time a prescription is filled, and requires additional reporting by medicaid and commercial insurers on those drugs with the highest spend in Vermont and where the price increases greatly. Most importantly S92 puts in place a generic type law for speciality drugs – think Humira and Embril - as their generic versions become available. All of the above will result in lower prescription drug costs, over time, to both insurers and patients. S92 will now head to the Senate for final approval.
Also, Governor Scott signed an executive order establishing the Governor’s Community Violence Prevention Task Force. This task force, composed of 14 members from the administration and the public, will review existing research and current gaps in Vermont communities to report back on how to address the “root causes” of the risk of violence.
Finally, our community hosted Congressman Peter Welch on Friday as he toured local businesses, spoke with Village officials and held a community conversation at The Nest Café and Bakery. I personally took much away from the visit but the most impactful to me was Peter’s statement “don’t underestimate what you can do in your local community.” With that as the backdrop I want to let everyone know about a new community initiative in Vermont that is happening this year. It is called Neighbors Day and the entire State of Vermont will be celebrating it on June 2, 2018.
To give you a little background, Neighbors Day was created in 1999 in Paris by Atanase Périfan, the deputy mayor of the 17th arrondissement after the unnoticed passing of an elderly resident. Périfan created Neighbors Day to help create bonds between strangers and since its inception, it has spread to more than 30 countries on 5 continents.
Last year the Essex Junction was the first local municipality to celebrate Neighbors Day in Vermont. After the success of that event, we decided that Vermont would be the perfect state to be the first place in the US to celebrate Neighbors Day as a statewide event. Dylan Giambatista and I wrote a Resolution that was passed at the start of legislative session in January designating this event to be held statewide.
There are many reasons that this is an important event, especially as the political climate in the US creates a divide between many people in our communities. Ultimately, the best part of this event is its simplicity. It is not a party for an entire village or town, but rather it is a hyper-local event planned by the citizens themselves and involving only their own self-defined “neighborhood”. Last year, some residents invited only the houses to their left and right for cocktails, while others invited the entire floor of their apartment building for an ice cream social. My neighborhood invited 30+ households to a breakfast event held on the playground of our neighborhood school.
This Neighbors Day initiative is a reflection of the power of positivity that still exists in Essex Junction and Vermont. I hope that you will find a way to bring this event to your neighborhood. You can find out about the history of Neighbors Day as well as all of the details about planning and hosting an event on the website: http://neighborsdayvt.org.
As always, I appreciate the opportunity to serve Essex Junction. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns – firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-373-0599