Legislative Update 4

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Feb 24, 2014 No Comments ››

Welcome Isabel Jamieson to our new group of legislative pages. Pages help the Legislature function while getting a first hand experience with the democratic process. While Isabel’s friends are on vacation this week, she will be reporting to work at 7:30 AM, working a long day.  Congratulations to Isabel and her family. Thank you to out-going page Grace Simmons.


School Funding:  Thank you to Fayston schoolboard chair Heidi Spear for her leadership in bringing members of the WWSU and others to educate the community on our school funding and the challenges our district is facing. It was very helpful for me to listen to the panelists” and attendee’s concerns.  Thank you to Channel 44 for taping it.  I encourage folks to watch and get involved in Heidi’s efforts.  School funding and property tax issues are challenging ones that the legislature is taking a hard look at.  Both the Ways and Means and Education committees are looking at many proposals.  I look forward to updating you on Town Meeting.


My Committee Work:  House Judiciary continues its work on drugged driving, Traumatic Brain Injury and the criminal justice system, family court jurisdiction over 16 and 17 year olds, and collateral consequences of crimes.  We are approaching crossover–the time by which bills need to be voted out of committees to be considered by the Senate this year.  That date is March 15th.


We also passed a Senate bill that repeals Vermont laws that criminalizes the performance of an abortion. It has been held invalid and unconstitutional by the Vermont and US Supreme Courts.


The following is an update that was provided by my colleagues in other committees.


Search and Rescue (Government Operations): With the help of many stakeholders and interested parties, Vermont has a state- of-the-art search and rescue strategic plan in place.  It is the result of two years of thought, determination and very hard work.  One of the recommendations was to create a Search and Rescue  (SAR) coordinator.  An overview of his or her duties is as follows:

  • Establishing training standards for state police and providing the appropriate training.
  • Conducting a forty-hour class in search management training.
  • Working on a SAR database to ensure contact information is correct and accurate.
  • Maintaining records of all SAR operations. Also, trying to keep the data in concert with what is being collected on a national basis.
  • Communicating with public safety entities and creating an a extensive outreach
  • Program with local fire departments and EMS agencies and determining what constitutes their role.
  • Reaching out to every ski patrol in the state and distributing a “Lost Skier” worksheet.

The safety and well being of Vermonters is a top priority.


Understanding Medicaid and the “Global Commitment” (Appropriations)


The following explains some of the framework of Medicaid.

Global Commitment is Vermont’s Medicaid waiver. Most state Medicaid programs are payment shops. A patient goes to the doctor, physical therapist, dentist, mental health counselor, etc.; the provider bills the State and the State bills the Feds for the appropriation portion. That federal/state proportion, or Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP), is an annual federal formula based on how Vermont’s economy compares with other states. Because Vermont’s average income is higher and unemployment lower than many other states, we get less federal match than many others (55% fed to 45% state. The wealthiest states are 50/50).


In 2005, Vermont earned a federal waiver to fundamentally restructure Medicaid, allowing flexibility in what we can cover within a long-term, budget-neutral cap. State and federal actuaries come to consensus on what Vermont’s Medicaid expenditures are likely to be. Vermont is given federal spending authority up to that amount and given flexibility to initiate health care interventions that would improve health outcomes and reduce spending trends. With any money left under the actuarial recommendation and after paying for traditional Medicaid services, we are able to invest in initiatives that improve public health and health care delivery thereby bending the growth in Medicaid and other health care spending (i.e. public access to immunizations, the Blueprint for health, funding for Recovery Centers) or improve access to health care for the un- and under insured which improves health outcomes and reduce the cost shift for uninsured care (i.e. free clinics, premium assistance and cost sharing subsidies).


These are MCO Investments, which can total a certain percentage of traditional Medicaid spending over time. One new addition to the list of MCO investments is the new state psychiatric hospital. Such a facility is generally ineligible to receive Medicaid money. However, we have the opportunity to open a 25-bed facility by spending MCO investment dollars.


Vermont also has a Long Term Care waiver that follows a similar structure, known as Choices for Care. Rather than only getting state assistance for nursing home care, income-eligible Vermonters may choose a range of long-term care options from minor assistance with household chores to residential care. The theory, which is fully supported by data trends since the programs inception, is that by investing in home and community based services, we can decrease expensive nursing home costs, serve more Vermonters, and support the type of long term care people want.


You May Have Money in Unclaimed Property


The State Treasurer’s Office has more than $64 million in unclaimed property and they would like Vermonters to check and see if any of that money belongs to them. Financial property becomes “unclaimed” after a business or non-profit entity loses contact with a customer for a period of years. Unclaimed property may include cash, checks, security deposits, refunds, stocks, bonds, bank accounts and estates. There is no charge to claim funds through the State Treasurer’s Office. Search at www.MissingMoney.Vermont.gov.


Come to Farmer’s Night: Wednesdays at 7:30pm in the House chamber! Featuring performances from Vermont’s talented music groups, including The Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Maple Jam and more! This event is free and open to the public. For more information visit http://www.leg.state.vt.us/.

How to Follow the Legislature’s Work: Each legislative committee now has a information or home page. It is a great tool for the public to follow our work and issues of interest.  The page includes committee agendas, bills in the committee, witness testimony, reports and much more.


To find my committee page, visit the Legislative page at  www.leg.state.vt.us. The third topic down is Committee Information Pages.  Click on Standing Committee Information Pages and under House Standing Committees, click on Judiciary.  There you will find our weekly agenda, documents and handouts,  links to previous meetings and other information.  Each day more and more is posted. It is a live page. I hope it helps you follow any committee in the Legislature, issues that concern you, feel connected to the process and help me help you!