Vermont Update 1-27-20
Paid Family Leave
House and Senate conferees reached an agreement last week on H. 107, the paid family leave bill. The House approved the compromise with an 89-58 vote. The final bill imposes a 0.2 percent payroll tax to fund the program. A handful of legislators opposed the bill because it didn’t go far enough—a temporary disability insurance program is optional for employees willing to contribute an additional 0.38 percent. The governor is widely expected to veto the bill. Democratic leaders need two-thirds of both bodies to override the veto. While the Senate should pass that mark easily, the House will need 100 votes—more than those who voted for the bill. Some of the Democrats and Progressives who voted against this bill may switch their votes in a veto override, leaving the final outcome unclear.
Older Vermonters Act
The House Committee on Human Services heard initial testimony on the Older Vermonters Act. The VNAs of Vermont is on the invitation list to testify, although the committee may not take up the bill again for another week.
The legislation is intended to work in tandem with the federal Older Americans Act, the Vermont State Plan on Aging and the Choices for Care program. Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) Commissioner, Monica Hutt and Director Angela Smith-Dieng recommended changes to the bill. DAIL’s main concern is not having the staff or resources to take on some of the tasks outlined in the bill and they suggested some strategies to align their current obligations with the reports called for by the bill. They also opposed language that would require an annual inflationary increase for home- and community-based providers.
FY2019 Budget Adjustment
The House passed the annual budget adjustment for FY2019 on Thursday. The adjustment includes $3.9 million in delivery system reform investments for the OneCare Vermont provider network. The Administration proposed only half of what OneCare Vermont had initially proposed in its budget submission to the Green Mountain Care Board. The limited funds will be directed toward programs that are already underway, including the home health longitudinal care pilot program, an expansion of RiseVT and the embedding of mental health counselors in Supports and Services at Home (SASH) congregate housing sites.
Last year, legislators recommended that the short-term funding be included in the Budget Adjustment Act (instead of the Department of Vermont Health Access base budget). But when faced with reviewing new delivery system reform investments in the short budget adjustment act window, they were concerned they didn’t have enough time to review the new ideas. It’s a conundrum. The legislative budget process and Green Mountain Care Board budget process don’t align. In the end, the House Appropriations Committee approved language that memorializes in statute the collaboration between OneCare Vermont and the Agency of Human Services in designing and prioritizing proposed delivery system reform projects.
The bill now moves to the Senate.