Legislative review: Statehouse action is picking up

Greetings, everyone! Things are starting to move fast in the statehouse. Here’s an update on some (certainly not all) of the action.
S.169, An act relating to firearms procedures, establishes a 24-hour waiting period for the purchase of handguns (not long guns). It is a compromise between proponents and opponents of firearm restrictions. It is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.
“Between 2011 and 2017, 366 Vermonters took their lives with firearms. Research tells us that more than half of suicidal attempts (55 percent) are impulsive. Many people who attempt to take their life and fail, immediately regret their actions. Research also indicates that: 1) the interval between deciding to act and attempting suicide can be as short as 5 or 10 minutes, and 2) people tend not to substitute a different method when a highly lethal method is unavailable or difficult to access. Therefore, increasing the time interval with a waiting period can be lifesaving.” — NAMI
“Vermont has a higher than average rate of suicide deaths. Our rate of youth suicide deaths consistently place us in the top quartile in the U.S. Means matter. Among all age groups, firearms are the most common method used in suicide death in Vermont. In the 18 and younger age group, about half of the suicide deaths are due to firearms. Vermont has higher than average youth suicide death rate when compared to other states but lower than average prevalence rate of youth reporting severe depressive symptoms, suicidal planning, and suicide attempts.” — Rebecca Bell MD, Pediatric Critical Care, UVM Children’s Hospital, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at UVM Larner College of Medicine, vice president of the Vermont  Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Speaking of mental health … in our own county:
 “OK. You’ve got this” is a public awareness and education campaign to build resilient youth in Addison County. Data from schools and organizations serving kids show low levels of resiliency among youth and a feeling of being undervalued in their communities. The Counseling Service of Addison County, the Addison County Parent-Child Center, Building Bright Futures, the Vermont Department of Health, the Vermont Department of Children and Families, all three school districts and many other groups and individuals are joining together and stepping up to change that. We believe that thriving communities and healthy families grow resilient kids. We are using the framework by Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg to define the 7 C’s – the seven components that are the building blocks of resilience. They are as follows: Competence, Confidence, Connection, Character, Contribution, Coping and Control. For more information, reach out to Cheryl Huntley of the Counseling Service of Addison County.
PR.2 Declaration of rights; clarifying the prohibition on slavery and indentured servitude
There was scheduled a public hearing on this proposed amendment on May 8 in Room 11 of the Statehouse.
PS.5 Declaration of rights; right to personal reproductive liberty
Amending the constitution is a long and deliberative process. It must pass both the House and Senate in two bienniums, and in the final step of the process, all Vermont voters will have the opportunity to vote on these proposed amendments in 2022.
Legislation to support family and community:
S.23 An act relating to increasing the minimum wage
H.107 An act relating to paid family and medical leave, currently in the Senate
H.531 An act relating to Vermont’s childcare and early learning system, currently in the Senate
(A Main Street Alliance newsletter explains these and other issues, including broadband, workforce development, and small business.)
Health Care Committee update
Most recently we’ve been working on these two bills:
S.73 An act relating to licensure of ambulatory surgical centers
S.31 An act relating to informed health care financial decision making
We added language to S.31 with regard to Vermont Health Information Exchange (VHIE) – Vermont’s system of storing medical information (recent labs, for e.g.) so that your providers (MDs, Nurse Practitioners, Social Workers) from different practices in the state can access information on an as-needed basis. We did this because we learned that the state wanted to move from an “opt in” to an “opt out” basis, and we felt it was important to add legislative “guardrails” to the process of sharing your health information.
Currently, in order for your medical provider to access your medical records stored in VHIE, you have to give consent (opt in). Opt out means your information will automatically be available to your other medical providers, and you would opt out if you didn’t want it to be shared with them.
The reason it is important for providers to have this kind of access is related to safety and continuity of care. Access is only used on an as-needed basis.
While there are already clear state and federal laws around the security and confidentiality of your medical records, I and others on the committee felt it would be extremely important to make sure that all individuals know that they have the right to opt out. We therefore drafted language with parameters around implementation of opt out, public education, and requirements to report back to the General Assembly at specific times. I initially did not support the move to opt out until it was clear to me that the implementation process would be substantial, and included stakeholders such as the Office of the Health Care Advocate.
Climate Change / Energy / Natural Resources
This is understandably a huge topic. The transportation, weatherization, clean water and other bills are in flux between the House, the Senate, and conference committees. As soon as I can, I will send an update just on these issues.
We have much more work to do. I am committed to working with you this summer on the critical issues of the climate crisis, and on community mental health services. Let me know if you’re interested in working with me and others already doing great work.
Rep. Mari Cordes can be reached via email at [email protected].

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