Report from Montpelier

by Rep. Kate Webb

Members of our community write to me frequently to express opinions, highlight concerns or ask questions related to upcoming legislation and issues of interest. A few themes that have come forward are 1) legislative involvement regarding the salt shed transfer station; 2) provider tax for dentists and independent doctors; 3) marijuana legalization.

1) Representative Lenes and I are in regular communication with town and state officials as well as Vermont Railway. On February 10th, we will meet with state officials to clarify the differences between federal and state environmental and transportation law and determine if there is a legislative role we might play.

2) The biggest challenge facing the 2017 budget is the $55 million gap in anticipated Medicaid spending and revenue. In his January budget address, the governor recommended expanding the “provider assessment” currently on nursing homes and hospitals to independent doctors and dentists. The Governor reasoned that this tax would draw down significant matching federal dollars, partially close the Medicaid gap and raise reimbursement rates to doctors and dentists who see patients on Medicaid. The House Ways and Means Committee is taking a great deal of testimony on this and at this time, it does not appear to be solving the problem it was thought to solve and may in fact do more harm than good. If this form of revenue will not work, however, the legislature will need to find other ways to address the Medicaid conundrum. While Medicaid has been expanded to provide coverage to more people, the actual cost per person has gone down.

3) A bill that would legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use is picking up traction in the Senate. At this time, it has made its way through the Senate Judiciary and Finance Committees and will likely be up for action on the Senate floor in late February. Should it pass, it would then head to the House where its fate is unknown. As Assistant Majority Leader, I am tasked with taking the temperature of the legislative body on certain issues that may come up for a vote. The response I have gotten is for every person who is ready to legalize, there is another who would never support legalization. The rest fall somewhere in between and are waiting to see what the bill would actually do and if their concerns can be answered. If this bill does move forward, I will address this in a later column

Please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns regarding this or other legislative issues. I am most easily reached via email: kwebb@leg.state.vt.us or phone/text: 802 233-7798 and can generally meet by appointment on Mondays.

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