Health Care Reform
S.88 was passed out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Originally, S.88 was a bill that laid out a plan for a single payer system. The bill, as passed out of committee, is essentially a summer study bill that will produce 3 options for health care reform, which will be developed by an expert. The bill calls for a 5-person board who would choose, and work with, the expert who would develop the options - 1 appointed by tthe Speaker, 1 appointed by the President Pro Tem, 2 appointed by the Governor, and 1 appointed by the other 4 board members. The composition of this board is of great concern to the advocates, as it is heavily weighted towards the Governor, who has not been a supporter of true health care reform. The bill is currently in the Senate Appropriations committee (as there is an appropriation required). Politics are running rampant, given that 3 of the gubernatorial candidates are senators - they are all jockeying for position on this bill.
Hospital budgets are being addressed in both the budget bill and a bill that is being worked on in House Health Care (H.627). We are following both of those and will update you as we know that information.
Early Childhood Education
Early Childhood Education Day was last Wednesday (3/17). There was a great turnout from our child care providers, who wore amazing blue t-shirts and were a very noticeable presence in the State House. They met with delegations of legislators from their counties in the cafeteria in the afternoon (as well as had lunch with legislators at the Capitol Plaza Hotel) to talk about H.595, the short form bill that would allow child care providers to organize and bargain. It was really an awesome day.
Higher Ed was level funded in the House budget (which is set to pass out of committee this Monday).
H.709, the bill which replaces CHEF, is on the House floor right now. It passed 2nd reading (which is the first day of floor debate) by a vote of 105-36 and will be up for 3rd reading (the second, and last, day of floor debate) on Tuesday.
H.268 (Ban on Mandatory Overtime) passed out of the House General, Housing, and Military Affairs and is in the Houes Appropriations committee, as the State Hospital (which engages in mandatory overtime) claimed that they will need a large appropriation to hire new people to make up for the loss of using mandatory overtime. We did a Public Records Request for accurate accounting information on the cost of overtime and, as it turns out, it looks like there will not be an appropriation required.
Last week, we were told by leadership a number of times that the bill was dead (for different reasons each day). We managed to resurrect the bill, with the coalition of your union, UNAP (Copley), and the Vermont State Nurses Association. We met with the House Majority Leader, the Speaker of the House, and the President Pro Tem of the Senate multiple times last week. We're trying to get a handle on what the "real" reason is for the hesitation to move this bill forward. We are continuing to work on it and will keep you all posted.