Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group also praised the expanded reporting and other disclosure provisions.
“If this bill is passed, voters will eventually have a lot more useful information about where candidates and political action committees are getting their money,” Burns said.
“The bill also reestablishes limits on campaign contributions that are for the most part reasonable,” Burns added. “The final version of the bill passed by the Government Operations committee was certainly a vast improvement over earlier drafts that would have allowed wealthy individuals and corporations even greater influence over elections.”
The contributions limits were the most contentious provisions in the bill, said Senate Government Operations Vice Chairman Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington.
He was prepared to reject the bill if the committee had stuck with contributions higher than in place today.
Donegan said she doesn’t have any data on how many businesses or workers the legislation passed Friday would affect. And it’s doubtful the law would survive a legal challenge, since states generally aren’t allowed to preempt federal authority over self-insured companies.
But similar laws in California and New York have had the desired effect, and Rep. Paul Poirier, the Barre City independent who played a key role in getting the bill to the floor, said the companies he’s spoken to — Wal-Mart among them — have said they’ll voluntarily comply with the new requirements.
“They said, ‘we want to be good stewards here in Vermont,’” Poirier said. “Nobody wanted to come in and testify against it.”
Rep. Chris Pearson, a Burlington Progressive, said Vermont need not mount a defense to any legal challenges that might come. Companies that wish to disregard the new statute, he said, can try to make their case in the court of public opinion.
“Any challenge to this law would be a front-page story,” Pearson said.
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.
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.”
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.
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.