By Rep. Jessica Brumsted
Late last week, Republicans in the U.S. House decided to pull back their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act when they figured out they did not have the votes to act. This gives Vermont a bit of a reprieve from planning for the large cuts that were part of the administration’s replacement plan.
Clearly, we still need to keep our focus on the potential impact of future healthcare legislation. Recently, the House passed H. 507, an act relating to Next Generation Medicaid ACO Pilot Project reporting requirements. This bill would place appropriate regulation on accountable care organizations operating in Vermont to ensure that the path we are on is affordable and assures quality.
This was a busy week in our Statehouse. Last week was crossover week, which means that all House and Senate bills without funding attached to them must be reported out of their last committees of reference by the end of the week. All the bills that made it out of committee by March 17 were on the Notice Calendar for this past week. If you ever want to check the House and Senate Calendars and Journals, you may do so by logging onto http://legislature.vermont.gov/.
A long list of bills that made crossover needed to be presented to the floor, debated, amended (sometimes extensively), and acted on by the chamber in which they originated. Once a bill is passed by either the House or Senate, it goes to the other body, where it is assigned to committee, and the process begins again. Our days were long with lively and informative debate on the House floor; some of the more controversial bills that I supported and was happy to see passed were:
H. 422, an act relating to removal of firearms from a person arrested or cited for domestic assault for a five-day cooling-off period. Given the potential for harm when firearms are present in a situation of domestic violence, this legislation authorizes law enforcement officers to temporarily remove such firearms from persons arrested or cited for domestic violence.
H. 136, an act relating to accommodations for pregnant employees. This bill allows pregnant employees to request reasonable workplace accommodations and requires employers to grant the request unless it would result in undue hardship for the business. As passed by the House, H.136 also adds pregnancy discrimination protection, allowing pregnant employees to request accommodation without fear of retaliation or reprisal.
H. 326, an act relating to the eligibility and calculation of grant or subsidy amount for Reach Up, Reach Ahead, and the Child Care Services Program. I am an enthusiastic cosponsor of this bill because it addresses the so-called “benefits cliff” that has been overlooked for too long. It often comes to light when you hear about a single parent with two children, who may be working and is eligible for benefits, but then loses those benefits if s/he accepts a small raise in pay. This bill would disregard personal retirement accounts and education accounts in determining eligibility and grant subsidies. H.326 would allow the parent to accept the raise and to place those dollars in a college savings account for his/her children and then s/he can retain benefits, remain employed, and eventually get to a point where state assistance is no longer necessary.
If you have any other questions about these or any other bills, please check the Vermont legislative website noted above (http://legislature.vermont.gov/) or contact me at email@example.com or 802-233-2120.
Representative Webb and I will also be in the Pierson Library from 6 to 7pm on Tuesday, April 11 to discuss issues of interest. When you read this, we will be in the middle of debating the state’s FY 18 budget that will be presented to the House by the House Appropriations Committee. Please know I am always available to meet with anyone by appointment in Montpelier from Tuesday to Friday and in Shelburne on Saturdays and Mondays.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve.