The Word in the House 3/21/2013 - Crossing Over

Last week marked “crossover” at the Statehouse.  Any bill, in order to stand a chance of becoming law this year, had to be voted out of its committee of jurisdiction last Friday.  This was true whether the bill originated in the House or the Senate. Those bills will now come to the floor of their respective body for a vote where they will have to pass before being sent to the other body. 

The Transportation Bill, which I wrote about last month will be voted on this week.  Several amendments are expected to be offered from the floor, but I expect that it will pass with a tripartisan majority.  Here are some other bills of general interest that we will be voting on. (Passed 3/21/13)

Health Care: A technical corrections health care bill, H. 107, makes a number of changes to Vermont law to bring Vermont's health insurance statutes in line with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  It also clarifies a 2009 law that requires insurance companies to cover the cost of mammograms and colonoscopies without an additional copay.  Some people have been charged for certain procedures associated with their mammogram or colonoscopy that could be considered a violation of the intent of the 2009 law.  This bill explicitly affirms that all parts of the screening need to be covered without additional copay.
The House also passed H.315 that requires companies headquartered out of state to provide to their Vermont employees with same sex married or civil union partners the same benefits provided to employees married to opposite sex partners.  Some businesses were not doing so because it wasn’t required by law and it wasn’t their policy.  They made it known that they would not challenge this legislation if it passed. 
Opiate Addiction and Methamphetamine Abuse: Vermont has some serious problems with issues related to drug addiction and abuse. The Human Services Committee combined elements of H.331, H.212, and H.65 in a single bill, H.522, relating to “Strengthening Vermont’s Response to Opioid Addiction and Methamphetamine Abuse.” It includes work done by the General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee and the Judiciary Committee.
In order to further attempts to prevent abuse of prescription drugs, one part makes changes in how the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System (VPMS) is to be used. It would allow the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of Health to provide a report of data in the VPMS to the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety, but only when it is necessary to avert a serious and imminent threat to a person or the public. Any request from Public Safety for data must document a bona fide specific investigation and specify the name of the person being investigated. The decision by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of Health to provide that report can be made only after consulting with at least one of the patient’s health care providers.
Another part of the bill requires that any health care provider who prescribes and any dispenser who dispenses a Schedule II, III, or IV controlled substance must register to use the VPMS. A health care provider will be required to check the VPMS at least the first time the provider prescribes one of those controlled substances to a patient and annually thereafter so the provider will know if any other providers are also prescribing the same or similar medications.
In order to improve access to treatment and recovery for Vermonters with drug addictions, the bill asks the Department of Health, in collaboration with several relevant organizations, to develop evidence-based guidelines and training for hospitals regarding screening for addiction, performing addiction interventions and making referrals to treatment and recovery services. It also includes a statewide pilot project seeking to prevent deaths from opioid overdoses by using a counteracting drug such as Narcan.
Another section relates to the use of an electronic registry system to record the sales of products such as Sudafed and others with similar ingredients that are used to make methamphetamines. This is to prevent individuals from purchasing those products in quantities that would indicate the products would likely be used to make meth rather than for legitimate health purposes. Passage of this bill will provide help for Vermonters with drug addictions as well as attacking other aspects of the drug problems in Vermont.
This bill also contained the provisions regarding precious metal dealers that require licensing and accurate record keeping in order to deter the exchange of stolen articles for cash. (Passed 3/21/13)
I have heard from many of you on a variety of topics and continue to welcome your input. You can email me at or call me at 425-3960.