We made it to crossover. Crossover is the date set by both parties when all bills must be voted out of policy committees to be considered for a full vote in their respective chamber and to then crossover to the other body this year. Crossover for money bills is March 15th.
Many good bills came out of committees in this last week, but gun violence prevention legislation took center stage.
The gun violence prevention legislation passed by the House on Friday included four critical parts: 1) It would put current practice into law which gives the judge discretion to require any individual who is a risk to themselves or others to turn over weapons as a condition of pre-trial release, 2) Empowers a State’s Attorney or the Attorney General’s office to petition a court to issue an order temporarily restricting a person’s access to guns when they pose a danger to self or others (commonly called a 'Red Flag' bill), and 3) Provides protection to a victim of domestic assault by allowing a law enforcement officer, in certain circumstances, to remove a firearm from the scene if the removal is necessary for the protection of the officer, the victim, or another person, 4) Creates a felony charge for the possession of a firearm on school grounds with intent to harm.
The red flag bill passed by the House differs from the Senate’s passed extreme risk protection bill in two key ways: 1) the House requires preponderance of evidence while the Senate version requires clear and convincing evidence and 2) guns may be kept for up to a year in the House version and 60 days in the Senate version.
These two bills, known as H675 and S221 will be reconciled between the two bodies in the coming weeks. Additionally the Senate passed S.55, which requires mandatory background checks for private gun sales and raises the minimum legal age to purchase a gun from 16 to 21. This legislation will now head to the House.
Gun violence prevention discussions are often emotionally charged. After listening to the House debate this week, I believe no one is taking their role lightly. I urge readers to reach out to their Representatives and Senators with questions and concerns.
In the healthcare committee, on which I serve, we focused this first half of the session on changes made at the federal level that would impact the stability of the Vermont healthcare insurance market as well as needed legislation around the Green Mountain Care Board, our Health Information Exchange and the All Payer Model. However, we voted out a bill Friday that will now head to the House floor that I’m very passionate about - breast cancer screening. Currently screening by a mammogram is considered preventative and no co-pay or deductible is charged. However, if a person has a mammogram and is called back for further review or comes in for that initial mammogram because they have symptoms those are now considered a diagnostic exam and co-pays and deductibles are charged. We heard testimony that people are not coming back for additional screening due to the costs. Our bill will require breast cancer screening be covered without co-pays and deductibles. Representation Betsy Dunn sponsored this legislation and myself and 45 other representations co-sponsored. I look forward to the vote on the House floor.