Legislative Update 4.17.23


Devon Green, VP of Government Relations
Last week provided a moment of reprieve as the fire alarm went off during the morning and we were all forced outside to enjoy the sun. Rep. Mari Cordes set up a badminton set—a great reminder to take the occasional moment of fun and levity as we hit the grindstone in the weeks ahead.
Workforce: In preparation for work in the Senate Appropriations Committee on the budget, the Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee is looking at the workforce development programs in the House-passed FY 24 budget, including:
  • $3 million towards the Vermont Nursing Forgivable Loan Incentive Program.
  • $3.8 million to the Vermont State Colleges to provide critical occupation scholarships (includes nursing, mental health counseling, and dental hygienists).
  • $1 million to Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) to establish a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Forgivable Loan Incentive Program.
  • $100,000 to VSAC to establish a Dental Hygienist Forgivable Loan Incentive Program.
  • $1 million to provide Emergency Medical Services training.
  • $170,000 to Agency of Human Services (AHS) for the three-year limited-service health care workforce coordinator position.
The committee has a total of $40 million in one-time funds allocated to workforce development across the state. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee will also take a look at these proposed initiatives and make recommendations to Senate Appropriations.
Shield Laws: The Senate Judiciary Committee passed H.89, which protects Vermont health care providers who offer legal reproductive and gender affirming care services from the criminal and civil liability of other states’ laws. The House Health Care Committee passed S.37, which includes regulatory and licensure protections for health care providers offering reproductive services and gender-affirming care. New amendments to S.37 include: adding “medication” to protected services, defining unprofessional conduct to include willfully providing inaccurate health or medical information, subjecting licensed health care professionals who work at crisis pregnancy centers to the Office of Professional Regulation’s oversight of unprofessional conduct; and reporting on access to reproductive services and gender-affirming care in the Community Profiles and Health Resources Allocation Plan.
Forensic Care: Two bills impacting forensic care, S.89 and S.91, were discussed in the House this week. S.89 proposes relicensing 9 beds at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital as a therapeutic community residence, as opposed to inpatient psychiatric care. The House Corrections and Institutions Committee questioned whether a space that still shares common areas would change VPCH’s designation as an Institute for Mental Disease under federal requirements.  
The House Judiciary Committee looked at S.91, a bill that tries to address the backlog of competency and sanity evaluations in the judiciary system. The Department of Mental Health (DMH) put forward an amendment that would allow for subsequent competency evaluations by DMH when there is clinical evidence that the person is successfully engaging in treatment and showing improvement.
Office of Professional Regulation (OPR): The Senate Government Operations Committee passed H.305, the OPR bill updating and adjusting licensure fees. The committee finalized a version of the bill that allows for satisfying in-person continuing education with a live virtual option. The bill also allows pharmacists to administer flu and COVID vaccines to individuals age 5 and up.