This piece was printed in the Essex Reporter as part of a Q&A to all 4 Essex Town/Village legislators.
1. Is there a piece of legislation Essex residents, in particular, should keep their eye on? Why?
Unfortunately we have a lot of priority issues that I recommend Essex residents pay attention to. In healthcare our first priority is to understand and mitigate the effects of President Trump’s decision to eliminate the subsidy reimbursements to insurance companies. By law insurance companies must continue to provide the subsidies, so insurance companies will be seeking a method to recoup the costs – most likely insurance hikes in the future. We need to lessen these effects to all Vermonters.
We have also begun reviewing the many studies that are now coming due from our large mental health bill last year. It is imperative that we eliminate wait times for treatment, ensure our children’s needs are being met, provide treatment to those in our prison system, and implement policy that moves our culture to treat mental health and physical health as one.
Two issues where we are watching federal action is funding for Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and our Federally Qualified Health Centers, like Community Health Center of Burlington. Congress has not yet reauthorized these programs, although they have extended funding for CHIP through March. Both of these are critical programs for the health of our children and for access to primary care.
Outside of our committee, the body is working on education funding, minimum wage, child care programs, tax reform, water clean-up, data privacy and our drug crisis, just to name a few. We do not have a shortage of critical issues that affect Essex and all residents of the state. We need residents to stay engaged and reach out with their comments and suggestions.
2. Several major bills have already been introduced this session, topics including recreational marijuana, water quality and minimum wage. What issue are you most passionate about and why?
I am most passionate about ensuring that we are spending your tax dollars effectively and equitably with outcomes that help Vermonters who need our assistance while providing economic conditions that help all Vermonters prosper and attract non-Vermonters to our beautiful state. This will be the frame I use when voting on all bills this session.
3. Do you plan to introduce or sponsor any legislation this session? Tell us about it.
As I meet with residents we determine together if a policy change is needed to solve their concern. Mostly, so far, all efforts have focused on bills that are already proposed to determine how to make them stronger and more effective. I am currently researching one issue around child support. Now that children can stay on a parent’s healthcare policy until age 26, should we require child support be paid to the parent providing the healthcare until age 21 or higher (assuming income criteria). I welcome all thoughts on this, and any other, issue.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve Essex Junction and for your continued support. I can be reached at: Lhoughton@leg.state.vt.us or cell 802-373-0599 or via my website at www.lorihoughton.com.