In the Media

Articles from outside news and opinion sources.

Vermont House votes to expand health insurance rights of same-sex couples

March 15, 2013; Alicia Freese; VTDigger

Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington, who co-sponsored the legislation, said it’s an important step in an “ongoing process” of “peeling back the layers of discrimination.”

A federal law limits the level of parity that the Vermont Legislature can achieve in this arena, however.

That law — the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) — governs group health plans offered by employers in the private industry. If an employer is self-insured, meaning they don’t contract with an insurance company, they fall under ERISA and are not subject to state insurance law.

The bill the House passed today only requires employers to meet the health insurance standard “to the extent permitted by federal law.”

Even though the bill still leaves room for out-of-state employers to not offer the parity in coverage, Pearson argued that putting this law on the books would make them more vulnerable both to legal concerns and public opinion backlash. “It would be a front page story,” Pearson said.

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Several transparency bills on deck in Vermont Legislature; others will need more time

March 12, 2013; Nancy Remsen; Burlington Free Press

Finally, Rep. Christopher Pearson, P-Burlington, has offered a bill to expand the public meetings law to cover the governing boards and committees of hospitals and accountable care organizations.

“The basic premise is hospitals get a lot of public dollars. It would bring them under the open meeting law to bring far greater transparency,” Pearson said.

Accountable Care Organizations, a new creation under the federal Medicare program, “are 100 percent funded by federal dollars,” Pearson added. “The onus should be on explaining why they shouldn’t be open.”

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Marijuana Legalization Bill Filed in Vermont

March 12, 2013; Thomas H. Clarke; Daily Chronic

MONTPELIER, VT — A bill that would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana, sold through a regulated wholesale and retail system overseen by the state’s Department of Liquor Control, has been introduced at the Vermont state house.

marijuana moneyHouse Bill 499, An Act Relating To Regulation And Taxation Of Marijuana, was introduced to the House and assigned to the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

“It’s been nearly a century since Vermont first prohibited marijuana in 1915. It hasn’t worked and it’s time for a new approach,” said Representative Susan Davis (P-Washington), lead sponsor of the bill.

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Vermont Edition: State Auditor Doug Hoffer

March 14, 2013; Bob Kinzel; VPR

Click here to listen!

Two months ago, the state’s constitutional officers were sworn into office, but only one of them was new to his office: state auditor Doug Hoffer, who’s role is to ensure that taxpayer money is spent wisely. We talk with Hoffer about the performance audits his office is undertaking on topics like the health care contracts for prisons and state workers’ cell phone use. We also look at the announcement last week by Governor Peter Shumlin that the state should forgive $6 million owed to the state by towns with TIF districts.

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Vermont Democrats Want More Money in Politics

March 6, 2013; Paul Heintz; Seven Days

White’s bill would have capped individual, corporate and union contributions — which are currently $2000 across the board — at $500 apiece for House candidates, $1000 for Senate candidates and $2000 for statewide candidates. It also would have created a new aggregate limit for donors, barring any individual from giving more than $20,000 total per election cycle.

Then the sausage-making began.

Last week, the Senate Committee on Government Operations, which is chaired by White, amended her bill to drastically increase those and other contribution limits.

On Wednesday, they settled on a fivefold increase for statewide candidates, allowing them to collect $10,000 checks from each donor. But after Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) protested, on Thursday, the committee scaled that back to $5000.

“There’s no reason why anybody should give $10,000 to a political campaign,” Pollina argued to his fellow committee members.

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Balance shifts in Burlington Council makeup

March 5, 2013; Joel Banner Baird; Burlington Free Press

The evening’s closest race took place in the Old North End’s Ward 2, where veteran Progressive (and former councilor) Jane Knodell beat political newcomer Emily Lee, a Democrat, 269-243 — a mere 26 votes.

Until the final vote count, Knodell said later, “I didn’t know if I was the underdog or not in this race. Both sides wanted it bad.”

She credited a “classic, Progressive grassroots campaign” with her victory.

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