Legislative Update 3-15-21
Happy crossover! Last week, we reached the theoretical halfway point of the legislative session. I say theoretical because with the latest federal COVID-19 relief/stimulus package, the legislative calendar may extend beyond mid-May or legislators may come back in the fall. Regardless, the crossover deadline remained—meaning that all bills not involving money had to be passed out of legislative committees to stay alive. Any bills not passing out of committees on Friday are left “on the wall” and the legislature will have to wait until next year to take them up again.
Workforce Incentives/Partnership with Higher Education: The House Commerce Committee passed H.159 after incorporating $20 million of one-time federal funding to address critical areas of need, including health care training and workforce. Included in the proposal is free tuition for one year for the following programs:
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) program at Vermont Technical College (VTC)
- Nursing programs at Castleton University, VTC
- Allied Health Certificate at CCV
- Mental health counseling at Northern Vermont University
- Paramedicine and dental hygiene at VTC
- Radiologic Science and Respiratory Therapy at VTC
Extending COVID-19 Regulatory Flexibilities: TheSenate Health and Welfare Committee passed S.117, which will extend many of the current COVID-19 health care licensing and other regulatory flexibilities from March 2021 to March 2022. This will provide hospitals with useful tools to continue with the work of COVID-19 treatment now and coming out of the pandemic.
Prohibition of Firearms at Hospitals: The Senate Judiciary Committee passed S.30, which prohibits firearms in hospitals, with a nail-bitingly close 3-1-1 vote. Thank you to emergency department directors for providing information and outreach on S.30. This bill next goes to the full Senate.
Interstate Nurse Licensure Compact: The interstate Nurse Licensure Compact made the crossover cut and is making a stop in the Senate Finance Committee before hitting the full Senate.
Expansion of Health Care Coverage: The House Health Care Committee passed a VAHHS-supported proposal for expanding Dr. Dynasaur coverage to income-eligible children and pregnant individuals who are undocumented immigrants.
Working Group on Interstate Practice Using Telehealth: The House Health Care Committee also passed H.104, a bill that creates a working group to make recommendations on facilitating the interstate practice of health care professionals using telehealth.
Secure Residential Facility: The House Health Care Committee heard testimony on the Department of Mental Health’s proposed intensive recovery residence to replace the temporary Middlesex Therapeutic Community Residence. VAHHS supports a 16-bed secure intensive residential facility and will be tracking it in both the House Health Care Committee and House Corrections and Institutions.
Budget: In addition to the workforce incentive described above, VAHHS also supports the $3 million in funding for nurse and physician scholarships. VAHHS will be monitoring this piece of the budget as it goes through the House Appropriations Committee this week.