Week 9 of the session was active both on and off the floor as committees worked towards “crossover” on March 17th. This is when all bills we want to pass to the other chamber must be voted out of committee and put on the calendar for vote. This week 4 bills were introduced and 11 passed. H. 171 received the most attention on the floor as we debated shortening the length of time a person convicted of a nonviolent crime can seek expungement as well as adding two crimes to the list. After two amendments failed we passed the bill 88 to 51. I voted yes for the final bill. All bill information for both the House and Senate can be found at www.legislature.vermont.gov under bills and resolutions.
In the House Health Care committee we continue to focus on mental health issues and passed out unanimously H.197 an act relating to mental health parity for workers’ compensation. We agreed that mental health conditions incurred during service should be treated equally to physical injury in the workplace. The bill also states that post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosed in police, rescue/ ambulance workers or firefighters by a mental health professional is presumed to have incurred in the line of service and shall be compensable. With this bill our job was to determine if the mental and physical should be treated equally. This bill will now move to the commerce department and be considered within workers compensation guidelines.
Secretary Al Gobeille also briefed us on a public/private committee created to analyze the mental health care situation in Vermont. They are specifically looking at flow and funding with an eye towards a short term plan to start rectifying our issues in the near term. We will continue to be briefed on their findings and action plan.
The next community conversation with myself and Representative Giambatista will be Monday March 20th at 6:30pm at the Essex Senior Center located at 2 Lincoln St adjacent to the village offices. Hope to see you there or in the community soon!