Vermont Legislative Update 04-19-2019
An analysis from DRM's Government & Public Affairs Team
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Final push on clean water governance bill
The House Committee on Natural Resources continued its work this week on S.96, a bill that would adopt a clean water investment and governance proposal promoted by the Agency of Natural Resources.
The committee had expected to complete work on the bill this week, in order to provide enough time for the House Committee on Ways and Means to add its funding proposals to the bill. Those plans were delayed due to objections raised by clean water stakeholders to a wide range of provisions in the bill. A contentious funding disagreement between conservation organizations, clean water advocates and ANR also delayed consideration of the bill.
While other committees finished early and most members left the statehouse early for the holiday weekend, a core group of committee members worked well into the afternoon on a mark-up adopting many proposed revisions submitted by ANR.
Two critical pieces of testimony from ANR at the end of the week included proposed language to address the concerns raised by conservation organizations that the bill does not sufficiently recognize the role conservation plays in the state’s clean water initiatives. ANR also presented a spreadsheet to help the committee understand how the proposed investment priorities compare with current programs.
The committee is expected to complete work on the bill next week.
House Health Care Committee contemplates additions to surgical center bill
The House Health Care Committee continued its review this week of S.73, a bill to require ambulatory surgical centers to obtain operating licenses from the Vermont Department of Health. Under the bill, centers would also be required to follow regulations developed by the department that align with hospital rules. The Department of Health said the goal of the bill is to ensure patient safety by bringing these facilities under its regulatory structure. Currently, only the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living has limited oversight of ambulatory surgical centers.
After testimony from the Green Mountain Surgery Center, the committee decided to review the center’s Green Mountain Care Board Certificate of Need conditions to determine alignment with the requirements of S.73, as well as the certification requirements of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Committee members are concerned that the CON requirements will terminate when the CON expires. As a result, members discussed adding some of the CON requirements to the bill, to the extent that they do not duplicate other requirements.
By the end of the week, the committee decided to add a licensing requirement to the bill for ambulatory surgical centers to receive CMS certification in order to ensure compliance with CMS requirements. The committee is also considering adding the GMSC charity care and reporting requirements as well as a health reform participation requirement to the bill.
The committee will continue working on the bill next week.
Tobacco-21 legislation moves to House floor
The House Ways and Means Committee this week became the second committee to unanimously approve legislation to increase the minimum age for tobacco purchases to 21. The bill, S.86, passed after limited testimony and no debate. It is scheduled for consideration by the full House next Tuesday.
PFAS bill passes House
A bill to regulate polyfluoroalkyl substances compounds, S.49, was approved by the House this week. The bill:
- Requires all public water systems in the state to test for currently regulated PFAS, including perfluorooctanoic, perfluorooctane sulfonic, perfluorohexane sulfonic, perfluorononanoic, and perfluoroheptanoic acids;
- Requires the Agency of Natural Resources to develop maximum contaminant levels for currently regulated PFAS in drinking water;
- Requires ANR to adopt surface water quality standards for currently regulated PFAS; and
- Authorizes ANR to require any permitted facility to monitor for any chemical release that exceeds a health advisory issued by the Vermont Department of Health.
The bill now returns to the Senate, which approved a similar version last month, for consideration of changes made by the House.
Senate Economic Development Committee wants action on workforce development
The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs continued to hear testimony this week on H.533, a workforce development bill that passed the House last month. Committee Chair Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden, continued to express his preference for taking action over simply commissioning studies, but the committee has yet to make a final decision on what those actions should be.
The committee heard from Senate President Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, who urged the committee to take more concrete steps in supporting workforce development opportunities for new Americans. Rather than creating a task force, Ashe proposed language that would attempt to reduce employment barriers for new Americans, increase employers’ awareness of free services like English classes, and develop best practices for addressing the challenges faced by new Americans in the workplace.
One study that the committee does seem to support is a report on the barriers to training nurse educators. The study requires the Office of Professional Regulation to identify any such barriers and make recommendations on changes that could reduce or eliminate them. This provision is meant to address the severe shortage of nurses in the state, which is in part caused by a lack of capacity in training programs.
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