Random news, notes & observations from the State House on a Friday afternoon
By Guy Page
January 10, 2020 – A proposal to make the Vermont Constitution gender-neutral was introduced into the Vermont Senate today and sent to the Government Operations Committee.
Offered by Democratic Sens. Debbie Ingram and Ginny Lyons (Chittenden) and Ruth Hardy (Addison), Proposal 8 would change the title of Section 42, Chapter II of the Vermont Constitution (voter’s qualification and oath) from: “Qualifications of Freemen and Freewomen” to “Voter Qualifications.”
If approved by the 2020 Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott, Prop 8 would have to be approved again by the 2021-22 Legislature, and then approved by voters at a November 2022 statewide referendum – possibly the same referendum as Proposal 5, which would make unrestricted abortion a constitutional right.
Makes you wonder if some in the Senate are trying very, very hard to get out the women vote at that referendum? Supporters of Prop 5 have reason to be concerned: in a recent Vermont Water Cooler survey, only about 29% of respondents said they support unrestricted abortion laws.
OLDER VERMONTERS BILL INTRODUCED – two members of the House Human Services Committee have introduced a bill that would automatically increase Medicaid reimbursement at the rate of inflation for home and community based service providers for the elderly and disabled.
Vermont’s home health agencies, and other services that help keep elderly out of nursing homes and hospitals, face funding challenges that will likely increase as Vermont’s population ages.
H611, the Older Vermonters Act was introduced by Reps. Theresa Wood (D-Waterbury) and Dan Noyes (D-Wolcott). It also sets forth a system of services, supports and protections for Vermonters 60 and older.
REDUCE PHOSPHORUS WITH SHEEP MANURE? – the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture has an idea for reducing phosphorus runoff from farms: sheep manure! It’s very low in phosphorus but provides plenty of nitrogen, and can be packaged as a runoff-averse fertilizer. Vegetable farmers are enthused about the idea but funding is needed to fully develop the concept, a UVM ag official told the Chronicle this morning.
FEDERAL FUNDS PROVIDE A THIRD OF $6.1 BIL VT BUDGET – Federal funding totaling $2 billion accounts for 34% of the $6.1 billion 2020 state budget approved last year. The Education Fund (⅔ of which is $1.14 billion property tax) accounts for 28%, General Fund 27%, “Special Funds” 6%, and Transportation Fund 5%.
Gov. Phil Scott will kick off the 2021 budget discussion with his budget address later this month.
THIRD PROSTITUTION BILL PROPOSED – The third bill of the 2020 session to address legalization of prostitution has been “released for introduction” into the House. H651, “professional regulation of sex workers,” would set a framework to license, regulate and tax the “sex work” of prostitution. All activity would be facility-based, according to the bill sponsored by Reps. Cynthia Browning (D-Arlington) and Linda Sullivan (D-Dorset). For information on other two bills, see Vermont Daily Chronicle.
The deadline for new bill introduction is next Wednesday, January 15.