2012 Public Policy Update Week 16
Vermont lawmakers continued wrangling over the proposed CVPS/ Green Mountain Power merger last week as the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee held hearings on a bill that would send the $21 million windfall payback money to local ratepayers. Opponents of the deal floated the idea of a floor motion to take the bill out of committee - foreshadowing more possible floor action on this contentious issue soon.
The Legislature kicks off this week with an expanded schedule: Lawmakers will be in session today (work weeks are typically Tues-Fri) and will be in the building this Saturday, April 28, for what was long suspected to be the last day of the session. Right now a fair bet points to a wrap-up of the 2012 session sometime around May 4.
Health Care Reform
The Senate Finance approved H.559, the new health care bill setting up the federally mandated Health Insurance Exchanges, in a vote of 5-2 on Thursday night. After weeks of testimony, the committee did not make any substantial changes to the legislation. The bill is expected to land on the Senate floor today.
VBSR is encouraging senators to (1) include all employer populations in the Exchange, (2) eliminate "bronze" plans in the system and (3) move Vermont quickly to a system that decouples insurance from employment.
Russ Bennett, the chair of VBSR's Public Policy Committee and the owner of NorthLand Design and Construction in Waitsfield, had a great editorial in the Valley Reporter last week about the need to decouple insurance from employment.
Our health insurance costs are out of control. In 9 of the last 15 years, our health insurance costs have increased by double digits, with multiple years at 22 percent and 30 percent plus. The good years are merely single-digit percent increases. This system of using insurance to deliver health care is not sustainable.
- Russ Bennett
Meanwhile, the Green Mountain Care Board moved to cap the budgets of Vermont hospitals as that body begins setting up a statewide health budget. Read more about that work here.
House lawmakers approved JRS11, a resolution calling for a Constitutional amendment reversing the Citizens United court ruling, last Thursday after a debate that lasted several hours. Rep. Oliver Olsen, R-Jamaica, attempted to amend the resolution by adding a ban on corporate contributions from companies owned by out-of-country entities. The move, which was aimed at the CVPS/GMP merger controversy, failed in a vote of 42 to 57. After a vigorous debate about Democracy in the United States and the role of corporations in our elections, the body passed the resolution in a vote of 92-40. The resolution passed the Senate last week in a vote of 26-3. Passing this was a VBSR priority this year and we thank all the House and Senate members for their support and dedication to this important issue.
The House Agriculture Committee approved H.722, the bill requiring the labeling of all foods containing GMOs sold in Vermont, in a 9-1 vote Friday. Committee members did make one major change to the legislation, altering the effective date until 365 days after California and two other northeastern states enact similar legislation. The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee, where it is expected to die for the session.
• VBSR Spring Conference - Tuesday, May 17th, 7:30am-5pm, UVM Davis Center, Burlington. Register for this event here.