Here is a short review of some of my work from the 2010 – 2012 legislative session.
Serving on the Senate Health and Welfare Committee I worked on our new health care legislation and the federally mandated health care exchange that we hope will lead us to a new system that covers everyone while bending the cost curve and getting health care off the backs of employers. When up and running, the Health Care Exchange will provide a choice of plans along with significant income-based tax credits for the great majority of Vermonters.
I also helped craft major mental health system reforms, building what may be the strongest community-based system in the country. At the same time, I was one of a few Senators who consistently supported a 25-bed state of-the-art hospital in Berlin for those with acute mental health needs.
While involved in the big debates on these major bills, I also won new insurance company disclosure requirements, the end of discretionary clauses that allow insurance companies to deny coverage whenever they want, lower mental health co-pays and a new mental health ombudsman to protect and advocate for patients.
Amidst Irene recovery work, I was a strong advocate for returning as many state workers as possible to Waterbury and bringing some new jobs to Barre. While I wish it could happen sooner, I am glad we prevailed and many state workers will be resettled in Waterbury and Barre.
I also am pleased that a handful of bills I personally introduced became law. They include:
Ensuring therapy for Vermonters with autism. For the first time, we will require insurers to cover therapies for Vermonters with autism and other developmental delays, up to twenty-one years of age. Read more
Establishing a Genuine Progress Indicator. Vermont will now measure our economy in a new way, with a Genuine Progress Indicator. Unlike traditional indicators that only measure what we buy and sell, GPI puts real economic value on other important factors, like the cost of water pollution and benefits of safe communities. In this way the GPI is a better way of truly measuring our economic, social and environmental well being. The GPI will help us set policy priorities and build a state budget that is based on what is really happening to our families, environment and economy. Read more
State of Vermont Buying and Hiring Local…Finally. Under this new law we will put our tax dollars to work for Vermonters, using what is called an econometric computer model to make certain buying and contracting decisions. The model determines which bid is in the “best interest” of the State, in other words, which bidder will create the most Vermont jobs and income, so ultimately the winners will be Vermont businesses and workers. Read more
Unmasking Insurance Companies and Protecting Local Pharmacies. Under this new law insurance companies must disclose every claim they deny, which denials are overturned on appeal and how much they spend on lawyers to fight their own customers; also their political contributions, lobbying and marketing expenses, salaries and bonuses for officers and board members. It will be on the web for all to see. The new law also protects local pharmacists from Pharmacy Benefit Managers who can conduct virtually limitless, costly audits of pharmacies. Local pharmacists say the new law is the best in the country. Read more
Corporations are Not People and Their Money Should Not Buy Elections. I led the Senate debate making Vermont’s Legislature the first to tell Congress we support Constitutional changes, making it clear that corporations do not have the same rights as real people and we need to control campaign spending.
Of course some good ideas did not make it. A State Bank to bring our tax dollars home and increase local lending must wait. As will my proposal to make beverage bottlers return our $2 million a year in unclaimed deposits (as other states do) to invest in jobs. Child care workers were denied the ability to organize a collective bargaining group to improve their work and better serve our families. Customers of Central Vermont Public Service will not get back the $21 million they lent the company (even thought CVPS executives are getting $24 million in bonuses). The CVPS –GMP merger giving a Canadian company control of 75% of our electricity and our Vermont Gas Company is very troubling in terms of local control. And the cost of college is still too high. This year’s budget again level funds our state colleges and still spends almost twice on corrections as we do on higher education.