Legislative Report from Rep. Dennis Devereux for Ludlow, Mount Holly and Plymouth
The eighty-page health care bill is out and creating some unanswered questions. The bill seems to be on a fast track with plans to get it out of committee in the next couple of weeks. These questions have many legislators feeling uneasy.
Much more conversation is needed, and rushing only seems to make things worse. Our committee is being asked to look at creating the Health Reform Board, a five-member quasi-judicial board appointed by the Governor. This would take the legislature completely out of the governance process, and allow the Governor to veto its decisions. This board would take over for health care reform the regulatory process for setting hospital budgets, have oversight of capital expenditures, set policies that control the rate of growth in costs, and have authority to review and approve health insurer premium rate increases. The bill lays out a plan to seek federal waivers, without a financing mechanism in place. Even when Social Security was started in 1940, the program had been collecting money for at least four years to make it sustainable.
The board will make tough decisions about what essentially makes up 20 percent of our state’s economy. All this would be done with no public or legislative oversight. We have about 24,000 uninsured Vermonters, which is less than four percent of our population. With few insurance companies left, and a proposed increase in the provider tax to our hospitals, nursing homes, doctors, and dentists, maybe we should wait for the new federal program. Even using a payroll tax to finance the system raises issues. Many would still not be paying in, and the amounts do not sound sustainable. I do not mind having a conversation about how we can provide health care for everyone, but let us not set ourselves up for failure.
Our Government Operations Committee has spent many hours hearing testimony about the proposed changes to the public records law. Public records’ access is an important right to all our citizens. The courts have found that we also have the right to privacy in our personal pursuits. Exemptions, added over time, have limited access to many records, and requests for searches have been sometimes unreasonable and expensive.
The bill creates a director’s position at the Secretary of State’s office to decide on requests. Any denials to access a public record could still be appealed to the courts. Most of the denials concern access to police records and their ongoing investigations. It looks like a group will certainly be set up to evaluate the many exemptions we now have, and make recommendations to us next year. I doubt our committee will use a director instead of our present system. Much has been made of the fees charged for researching and copying records. The proposed bill would also extend the time from 30 minutes to 2 hours before any charges would be assessed.
I hope you can join me at the Perkins House Museum in Belmont between one and three p.m. on the second Saturday of March and April to discuss some of your concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact me at 802-259-2460, or with a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 800-322-5616.