Scott administration moves forward with all-payer test case

Agency of Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille and Gov. Peter Shumlin announce accountable care organization pilot program. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott is moving forward with a year-long pilot program that will serve as “a test session” for the all-payer model championed by former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin. Scott, a Republican, announced the launch of a year-long pilot program that will include about 30,000 Medicaid patients in Vermont in an accountable care organization called OneCare Vermont. The agreement with OneCare will set a global budget of about $93 million for the 30,000 Medicaid patients who will receive care from a coalition of four hospitals, independent practices and other health care providers that are part of the ACO. “My administration is committed to making health care more affordable and accessible for all Vermonters,” Scott told reporters at a news conference Wednesday. “This agreement allows us to gauge the impacts of an all-payer model designed to reward value, meaning low cost and high-quality care, rather than volume under a one-year pilot program.”

An Accountable Care Organization is a group of doctors, hospitals and other health care providers that come together to provide coordinated care for a specific set of patients. Continue Reading →

Senate advances ethics bill

Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to legislation that will tweak ethics laws for some government officials and create a statewide ethics commission to review complaints. The measure, S.8, was passed on a voice vote without opposition. It will be up for final approval in the Senate Wednesday. Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, the chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations Committee, told her colleagues that trust in government has been eroding for years. “This mistrust runs from the federal government down to local government,” she said. Continue Reading →

House rejects key plank in governor’s budget

PPoirier

MONTPELIER — Republican Gov. Phil Scott’s budget proposal suffered a potentially fatal blow Friday as the House voted to reject his plan to move school budget votes to May 23. The House voted on an amendment to an underlying education bill from the Senate. It called for moving local school budget votes from Town Meeting Day in March to May 23, as Scott called for in his budget address last month. Scott was looking to provide more time for local school districts to find a way to level fund 2018 fiscal year budgets at 2017 fiscal year levels, which he wants the Legislature to mandate. But the House voted 47 to 87, largely on party lines, against the amendment sponsored by Barre City independent Rep. Paul Poirier, who himself was against the idea. Continue Reading →

House members propose paid leave, governor promises veto

Rep. Matt Trieber

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers unveiled a proposal Thursday for a state-run paid family leave program, which Gov. Phil Scott promised to veto just hours later. Reps. Matt Trieber, D-Bellows Falls, Sam Young, D-Glover, and Sarah Copeland-Hanzas, D-Bradford, said at a State House news conference Thursday they plan to file a bill that will create the pooled insurance program that provides Vermonters up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. The program, which they said will likely be administered by the Vermont Department of Labor, would be funded by a 0.93 percent payroll tax that will be split evenly between employees and employers. Employees would be able to access 100 percent of their regular pay while on approved family or medical leave under the measure. Continue Reading →

House OKs recount of Orange House race

Rep. Robert Frenier

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House approved a resolution Wednesday after hours of pointed debate that calls for a recount in the Orange-1 House district race between Robert Frenier and Susan Hatch Davis that was decided by seven votes. Frenier, a Republican who was seated as a House member last month, beat Hatch Davis, a five-term Progressive incumbent, by an eight-vote margin on Election Day. A recount sought by Hatch Davis narrowed Frenier’s victory to a seven-vote margin, but was certified by a judge. Hatch Davis remained unconvinced, however, and sought another recount, which was rejected by Orange County Superior Court Judge Mary Miles Teachout. Hatch Davis then contested the election with the House, which has the authority to “judge” the election and qualifications of its members under the Vermont Constitution. Continue Reading →

House lawmakers seek legal marijuana, lesser penalties for possession of other drugs

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MONTPELIER — Members of the House Judiciary Committee have introduced bills to legalize the possession of 2 ounces or less or marijuana, and reduce the penalties for possessing other drugs like cocaine and heroin in small amounts. The bills were introduced by Chairwoman Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, Rep. Chip Conquest, D-Wells River and Rep. Thomas Burditt, R-West Rutland. The marijuana bill, H.170, would remove all criminal and civil penalties for possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana, two or fewer mature marijuana plants and seven or fewer immature plants. The legislation does not create a legal, regulated market in the state, however. The Senate passed legislation last year to do that, but it failed spectacularly in the House. Continue Reading →

Scott to consider eight potential Supreme Court justices

Vermont Supreme Court Justice John Dooley speaks during oral arguments Tuesday for a case that will determine whether outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin can replace him when his term expires April 1. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

MONTPELIER — The state’s Judicial Nominating Board sent eight names to Gov. Phil Scott Tuesday for his consideration as replacements for a retiring Vermont Supreme Court justice. Scott, a Republican, will select a replacement for Justice John Dooley after the Supreme Court rejected former Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin’s attempt to name a new a justice. Shumlin, who left office on Jan. 5, had attempted to name Dooley’s successor, even though Dooley is not scheduled to leave the bench until April 1. Dooley announced last September that he was not seeking retention and would leave the bench when his term expires on April 1. Continue Reading →

Senate committee rejects Scott’s school budget mandate

Sen. Phil Baruth

MONTPELIER — The Senate Education committee has unanimously voted to oppose Gov. Phil Scott’s plan to mandate that all school budgets be leveled-funded next year — and that rejection has broad budget implications. That’s because the governor had hoped to deal with a budget gap in the state’s General Fund, in part, by transferring early education, higher education and teacher retirement programs over to the Education Fund. The roughly $50 million price tag for this transfer was to be offset by a plan to require that all local school budgets not grow at all next year. The governor’s proposal would also require all teachers to pay for 20 percent of their health care premiums.

Because many school boards are finalizing their budgets for next year, the governor proposed moving all local budget votes from Town Meeting Day in March to late May to give the boards more time to reduce their budgets. Senate Education chairman Phillip Baruth says the governor’s plan is unfair to local school boards. Continue Reading →