Weeks 7 & 8 Legislative Updates
The last two weeks the House has been working hard on crafting a budget as well as continuing to hear testimony on a vast array of issues. The Governor's proposed budget, although laudable in recommending additional funding for many important issues such as higher and early education, was not balanced ($50m out of balance) and would have raised property taxes. Therefore, House Appropriations is creating a budget with recommendations from all the policy committees. They also held seven public hearings around the state with more than 150 people attending. They heard strong support for trying to address the urgent needs for mental health treatment and for funding for higher education and early education, as well as support for programs like the working lands initiative. By working together we will produce a balanced budget that meets the needs of Vermonters.
Also over the past two weeks I voted in support of a package of legislation to protect victims of sexual assault. Despite significant progress in strengthening Vermont's laws against sexual assault, too many victims of sexual violence are not ensured access to justice, health care and social services. The package of legislation reinforces the State's sexual assault laws by setting forth procedures and notifications related to medical forensic examinations of sexual assault victims. The legislation also ensures victims know their rights and resources available to them by receiving a copy of these rights and resources in writing. Most importantly, it ensures that victims will receive a medical forensic examination, including any related toxicology testing, at no cost, regardless of where the crime occurred and whether they have health insurance. The legislation now moves to the Senate for consideration.
My committee, Health Care, has heard testimony on many proposed bills including H.145 an act relating to establishing a Mental Health Crisis Response Commission. The bill evolved from the Grenon Group, an ad hoc group that former Senator Jim Leddy formed following the police shooting in Burlington of his friend, Phil Grenon, a 76-year-old man undergoing a psychiatric crisis. This bill proposes to establish a commission to review fatalities and serious bodily injuries that occur during interactions between law enforcement and persons demonstrating symptoms of mental illness. This bill has broad support from the police and mental health communities.
We also continue to hear testimony from Department of Vermont Health Access and One Care regarding the Next Generation Medicaid pilot. This is the 1-year pilot testing the All-Payer model for Medicaid patients. Our committee intends to remain very close to this pilot to fully understand the successes and the challenges and how Vermont's healthcare landscape will be altered. There has been quite a bit of news about this pilot, so feel free to reach out if you have specific questions.
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