Legislative Update – February 11, 2016

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Feb 11, 2016 No Comments ›› maxinegrad
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Vermont State House

My Committee Work: House Judiciary

Protecting Crime Victims:

H.533: Victim notification and a victim’s right to be heard at change of plea hearings. I sponsored these bills.
 
H.749: Relief from Abuse Orders: It allows a “next friend,” on behalf of another person, to file for an order for relief from abuse by a household member. It also allows a minor of 16 years of age or older to file independently. The bill is partly in response to the increase in teen dating violence. In 2013, 1 in 10 Vermont teens who dated reported being sexually assaulted or abused. Many don’t report because of being ashamed. Domestic and sexual violence advocates throughout Vermont report the need for older minors to be able to file on their own, and for younger youth to be allowed to file via a “next friend.”
 
One advocate in Caledonia County reports that a protection order filed on behalf of a minor by the minor’s grandmother was denied. The grandmother reported to an advocacy agency that she was denied because she was the grandmother and not the parent or legal guardian.
 
Further, many minors never attempt to access the protection offered by our court system because they understand that, as the law currently reads, they will need to engage a parent in this process. Many minors are unable to do that, for many different reasons. For example, advocates report that LGBTQ teens are often less likely to seek protections for fear of being forced to “come out” to their parents, and for fear of suffering estrangement from disapproving family members.
 
Stalking: H.818 proposes to amend the definitions related to civil orders of protection against stalking and sexual assault and the criminal stalking law. Clarification of the statute is needed: In Vermont, 3 out of every 4 Stalking Civil Protection Orders are denied. Stalking is a crime of intimidation, threat, and harassment. H.818, which I co-sponsored, includes: Clarification of “threatening behavior”; Redefinition of “course of conduct”; Clarification regarding intent; and Inclusion of current and future technology.
 

House Commerce and Economic Development Committee

Independent Contractors

Worker misclassification is probably one of the most troubling issues for the Vermont business community. Who is an employer? Who is an employee? Who is an independent contractor? What is at stake? In 2008 the Vermont Supreme Court in the Chatham Woods case adopted a “nature of business” test to the definition of “independent contractor.” The confusion resulting from this decision is damaging to Vermont’s economy, and without legislative action may hamper our entrepreneurial future.
 

House Committee on Health Care

The Health Care Committee has commenced weekly hearings on Vermont Health Connect (the “Exchange”) as a result of renewed concerns about the website’s functionality. Two weeks ago, BlueCross BlueShield CEO Don George and Chief of Health Care Reform Lawrence Miller testified that Exchange customers were experiencing increased rejection rates when trying to process change of circumstance (“COC”) requests and attempting to renew their health insurance plans through the website.
 
The COC function was disabled during the recent open enrollment period (November 1 – January 31) because of this software implementation delay. By mid-January, the COC backlog had ballooned to nearly 6,000 cases.
 
With the end of open enrollment, the Exchange software upgrade was implemented and automated COC request processing resumed. 1,100 COC requests have been processed in the last week. Chief Miller testified that the Exchange anticipates reducing the COC backlog to < 3,000 by the end of February. During open enrollment, the Exchange also experienced a large increase in information integration errors with insurance companies. While some of these errors were related to the increase in Exchange volume during open enrollment, they were also related to the delayed software update. We expect an update by mid-February on whether a software fix has corrected this issue.
 
If performance issues with the Exchange continue, the Health Care Committee will examine Exchange alternatives including moving to a federal exchange. The financial and functional costs of moving to the federal system would be steep and would create a dual system for Vermonters.
 
 

State Budget Public Hearings:

Thursday, February 11th: 5:30-6:30pm in Room 11.
 
 
 
 
 
Please stay in touch: mgrad@leg.state.vt.us, 828-2228 (State House) 496-7667 (home).
Sincerely,
Rep. Maxine Grad
Washington-7: Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren
If you haven’t already, please visit my website“like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter. I will be posting updates as often as possible to keep you informed about what is happening in the Vermont Statehouse. You can also look for my updates on Front Porch Forum and in the Valley Reporter and Waterbury Record.