The Word in the House 4/4/2016 - Dental Therapists, Permitting and Marijuana

The 2016 legislative session is now two-thirds finished and is projected to end by the first week in May. Several bills have been sent to the House from the Senate and are now being considered by various committees. Here is a brief description of a few of them.
One bill, S.20, would create a new licensed professional category of Dental Therapist. This is a level of training between a Dental Hygienist and Dentist. A Dental Therapist would be required to have all the training of a Dental Hygienist as well as graduate from an accredited dental therapist educational program. They would be licensed to provides oral health care services, including prevention, evaluation and assessment, education, palliative therapy, and restoration under the general supervision of a dentist. They would only be allowed to practice in settings or areas with a significant volume of low-income, uninsured, or under-served patients. The impetus for this legislation has been the lack of sufficient and affordable dental services in many rural communities of Vermont. The bill is currently under review by the House Human Services Committee.
Another bill, S.123, seeks to streamline the permitting of projects under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Conservation in the Agency of Natural Resources. The bill consolidates 85 current processes into five processes and standardizes the procedures for notifications and approvals, including

• requiring pre-application public participation for large or complex permit applications,

• requiring notice of the application for all permits except emergency permits,

• providing interested persons (other than the applicant) an opportunity to provide expert or detailed opinion to ANR technical staff prior to a public comment period,

• requiring administrative records for all DEC acts or decisions, and

• requiring fact sheets for all individual permits.

The bill also requires ANR to develop one web-based portal that is searchable for projects that are on notice by project name, permit type (e.g., stormwater), or geographic location. Interested persons would be able to "subscribe" to be notified when key project milestones take place. It also creates two standardized notice periods, 30 days for major permits, 10 days for minor permits, and allows emergency permits to be issued without notice. The House Natural Resources and Energy Committee is in the process of reviewing this bill.
Finally, S.241, the marijuana legalization bill, has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee. Additionally, it is undergoing a thorough evaluation by several other committees, including Government Operations, Human Services, Health Care, and Agriculture. Judiciary and Government Operations held an evening public hearing last week in the House chamber for one and a half hours, taking testimony from both advocates and opponents. Deliberations are expected to continue for several weeks as the potential benefits and consequences are evaluated.
I welcome your thoughts and can be reached by phone (802-233-5238) or by email (