The VMS Policy team has prepared this mid-session 2020 VMS Legislative Bulletin to provide you with the status of 2020 State legislation covering topics including the COVID-19 emergency, health reform, insurance regulation, public health, scope of practice, mental health, and regulating the practice of medicine. Typically, the VMS Legislative Bulletin is published in mid-March, directly after Town Meeting week, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed the entire timeline and trajectory of the 2020 legislative session and therefore our reporting.

On March 13th, 2020 Governor Phil Scott filed an Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency, after which the Statehouse was shuttered and the legislature began meeting virtually. The VMS joined with other Vermont health care associations to create a broader Vermont Health Care Coalition, which has advocated successfully for critical legislation that provides flexibility for Vermont clinicians to respond rapidly to the COVID-19 pandemic including: the Medicaid retainer funds, access to personal protective equipment, state testing protocols, liability protections and the $275 healthcare stabilization fund.

During most sessions, the Vermont legislature adjourns in mid-May, with adjournment being contingent on finalizing the budget for the next fiscal year. This year, due to economic uncertainty across all agencies and a sharp drop in State revenue, lawmakers opted to start by passing a "skinny budget," designed to cover just the first quarter of the FY2021 before recessing at the end of June. Lawmakers will then return to Montpelier from August through September 2020, to provide them with more time to better understand the fiscal impacts of COVID-19 on the FY2021 Budget and pass a FY2021 budget for the remaining three quarters of 2021, to respond to increases in COVID cases or other unforeseen needs, and to determine how best to spend the remainder of the $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds.

Unlike most states, Vermont moved rapidly into remote sessions in March, barely skipping a beat in terms of shifting Committee meetings into virtual ZOOM discussions. Although there were many technological issues, and days where the conversation consisted mostly of "can you hear me," lawmakers adopted virtual rules and voting protocols and mostly adapted to the new normal of remote legislating. This historic shift caused lawmakers to prioritize COVID-relief legislation from March to July, leaving other 2020 VMS priority bills with an uncertain fate. The legislature is scheduled to return from their recess on August 25th, 2020, with the majority of lawmakers simultaneously campaigning for reelection in November. It is unsure whether lawmakers will return just to pass the FY2021 Budget for the remaining three quarters and adjourn or if they will push to pass other 2020 legislative priorities. The VMS is watching closely to see if S.54, the marijuana commercialization bill, will be taken up in Conference Committee in August and will advocate for H.607, the primary care scholarship bill to make it to the finish line.

This report provides a comprehensive status update on important 2020 health care legislation and largely focuses on the bills that passed, were vetoed or received considerable action. This report also includes VMS priority bills that received substantial attention before the pandemic or that may come up when lawmakers return from the summer recess. If you are interested in an update on legislation that is not listed in this report, please reach out to VMS staff.

VMS would also like to extend a special thank you to all of the members who testified and reached out to lawmakers during this session. Understanding that making time for advocacy was made even more difficult during this challenging time, your perspective and experience is meaningful and has a powerful impact. Below you will find summaries of significant legislation that VMS tracked this session on behalf of our members, grouped into seven categories:
For more information, please contact:
Jessa Barnard, VMS Executive Director,
Stephanie Winters, VMS Deputy Executive Director,
Jill Sudhoff-Guerin, VMS Policy and Communications Manager,

COVID-19 Emergency

COVID-19 State Emergency Legislation 
Act 91/H.742As the closure of the Statehouse became imminent, the House Health Care Committee worked tirelessly with the health care association coalition to determine which emergency flexibilities to telehealth and licensure regulations were necessary to allow clinicians to respond to COVID-19 in Vermont. These emergency flexibilities became effective immediately but were only extended for the duration of the COVID-19 State of Emergency. These flexibilities included allowing: 
  1. the waiver or modification of provider taxes;
  2. the relaxation of staffing requirements to allow continued operations with a reduced workforce; 
  3. the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) to waive requirements related to hospital budget review, certificates of need, insurance rate review and accountable care organization certification; 
  4. the relaxation of Medicaid provider enrollment requirements and provider credentialing requirements;  
  5. the waiver of reporting requirements for involuntary treatment; 
  6. DFR to adopt emergency rules regarding limiting cost-sharing, waiving deductibles and requiring coverage for audio-only telehealth coverage; 
  7. early refills of prescription drugs, pharmacist extension of maintenance medication and medication substitution; 
  8. OPR and the Board of Medical Practice to issue temporary licenses to out-of-state, as well as retired health care professionals; 
  9. OPR to waive APRN's collaborative agreement requirements to allow them to practice independently;
  10. deeming licensing for out of state providers providing services via telehealth or in a Vermont facility;  
  11. the same reimbursement for telehealth services as in-person care, including reimbursement for services delivered by store and forward means (to sunset January 1, 2026); 
  12. the waiver of HIPAA requirements for telehealth platform and VT consent, if not practical
VMS Position: Support
Status: Signed into law March 30, 2020 to be effective throughout the declared State of Emergency

Act 140/H. 960, Due to concern that the health care regulatory modifications passed in Act 91 would no longer be effective when Vermont's State of Emergency was lifted, but still necessary due to the ongoing response to COVID 19, the VMS and health care association coalition advocated for the extension of a number of these flexibilities. The legislature chose to extend a number of these provisions through March or July of 2021.  Because lawmakers will be in session beginning in January, they can legislatively extend these provisions again, if necessary.The extensions include: 
  • coverage for audio-only telehealth services until June 30, 2021;
  • deeming licensing for out of state providers providing services via telehealth or in a Vermont facility until March 31, 2021;
  • temporary licensing for retired health care professionals until March 31, 2021; and
  • waiving HIPAA requirements for telehealth platform and VT consent, if not practical, until March 31, 2021. 
This bill also enacted other miscellaneous health care priorities, including:  
  • Authorizing the GMCB to provide analysis on how community mental health providers can be fully integrated into the state's payment reform efforts.
  • Creating a Mental Health Integration Council, to implement the Department of Mental Health’s (DMH) 2020 report “Vision 2030: A 10-Year Plan for an Integrated and Holistic System of Care.” The 24-member Council includes an appointee from the Vermont Medical Society. 
  • Putting conditions on the Brattleboro Retreat, including requiring oversight from DMH to improve patient care and communication with Retreat employees.
  • Expanding pharmacy coverage by the VPHARM program for those with incomes up to 225% of Federal Poverty Level in Vermont's next Global Commitment Waiver negotiation.
  • Requiring the Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) to create a workgroup to examine long-term coverage for audio-only telehealth services.
  • Requiring all health plans to conduct an annual review of all medical procedures and services requiring prior authorizations and eliminating any no longer necessary or routinely approved. Health plans are required to attest to DFR and the GMCB by September 15th each year that this review has been completed.
  • Requiring DFR to evaluate how EHRs can better streamline prior authorization into embedded real-time protocols. 
  • Requiring GMCB to evaluate how the All Payer Model (APM) can reduce and eliminate prior authorizations. 
  • Requiring DVHA to report on clinical prior authorization requirements in the Vermont Medicaid program.
  • Requiring all health insurers to have prior authorization “Gold Card” pilot by 2022. 
VMS Position: Support
Status: Signed into law July 6, 2020, Effective Immediately

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CARES Act Funding Directed to Support Vermont Health Care System
Act 136/H. 965, appropriates approximately $326 million of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) to cover COVID-19 expenses and losses for health care entities across the State. Specifically, this bill includes $275 million for the AHS' Health Care Provider Stabilization Program. VMS strongly urged the legislature to use the CRF funds to create this Stabilization Program in order to provide economic relief for Vermont's entire health care sector, including hospitals, independent doctors, dentists, mental health providers, rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, medical labs and pharmacies. The Agency of Human Services will be allocating these funds through an application process based on need and is accepting applications through August 15th, 2020. CRF funds must be spent by December 30, 2020, can only be used on necessary COVID-related expenses and losses, and cannot be used to backfill state revenue. This bill also includes $28 million in Hazard Pay for staff who earn an hourly base wage of $25 or less (lump sum grant to employer of $2000 or $1200). The Front-Line Employees Hazard Pay Grant Program application portal opened Tuesday, August 4th, and has limited funding available for eligible employers toapply for to cover hazard pay for their employees. 

VMS Position: Support
Signed into law July 2, 2020, Effective Immediately

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CARES Act Funds Directed to Broadband Expansion for Access to Telehealth
Act 137/H.966, this bill directs $17,433,500.00 in CRF funds to the Department of Public Safety's (DPS) "COVID-Response Accelerated Broadband Connectivity Program," which includes funding to allow Vermont providers to apply for assistance on behalf of a patient for a line extension so that their patient can receive telehealth services. The bill also allocates $800,000 for the Vermont Program for Quality in Health Care (VPQHC) to develop a pilot program to distribute "Connectivity Care Packages,” which aim to help patients better access telehealth services. The packages would provide practices with free tablets to distribute to patients who need them, digital literacy and telehealth support and information regarding broadband expansion opportunities. VPQHC is currently finalizing the pilot with more information to come. This bill also provides housing assistance for Vermonters facing homelessness, foreclosure protection for low-income Vermonters and rental assistance. 

VMS Position: Support
Signed into law July 2, 2020, Effective Immediately 

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Health Financing/Health Reform

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FY2021 "Skinny Budget"  Passes Legislature
H.961/Act 120, or the Quarter 1 bill, was passed primarily to provide spending authority for the State to operate from July 1-September 30, 2020, while providing more time for the State to better evaluate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the State before passing the full FY2021 Budget. Lawmakers intend to develop the full fiscal year budget in August and September of 2020, after receiving revenue forecasts for fiscal years 2021 and 2022. The Quarter 1 budget also determines the methodology in which the State intends to allocate the $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) Vermont received in April, 2020. The legislature and Scott Administration are being very careful to follow strict federal guidance on what CRF funds can be spent on and to follow the requirement that funds must be appropriated and spent by December 30, 2020. The guidance, which if misinterpreted could result in a substantial clawback of the CRF, explicitly states that CRF cannot be used to replace lost State revenue in order to fill budget holes. The Quarter 1 bill did appropriate CRF funds to cover a number of entities impacted by the COVID pandemic including $3 million for the expansion of Vermont's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to meet the needs of the virus. The skinny bill also: 
  • Requires the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Mental Health to present a plan to the legislature on or before August 18, 2020 that creates the capacity for each State Police barrack to embed mental health clinicians in order for officers to more appropriately respond to situations involving individuals experiencing a mental health emergency;
  • Requires the Agency of Human Services to develop a plan to provide comprehensive mental health treatment services to youth, including justice-involved youth, with severe mental health disorders. 
VMS Position: Monitor
Signed into law, Effective July 1, 2020

Bill to Appoint Health Care Professional to GMCB Passes Senate
S.42, the VMS-introduced bill requiring a health care professional to have a seat on the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) at the next vacancy, passed the Senate in 2019, but received no hearing in the House Health Care Committee in 2020. Although, this bill is unlikely to come up for debate before the 2020 adjournment, many lawmakers support having more clinical experience on the Board, so VMS continues to advocate for the proposal. The bill was amended last year to add naturopaths to the definition of “health care professionals” that could qualify to be appointed on the Board, in addition to physicians, registered nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. 

VMS Position: Support
Passed the Senate, In House Health Care Committee (No Action in 2020 Session)

House Passes Primary Care Scholarship Bill
H. 607, a bill aimed at increasing the supply of nurses and primary care physicians in Vermont, passed the House on June 16, 2020, and advanced to the Senate before the summer recess. The bill requires the Vermont Department of Health, in collaboration with the Area Health Education Centers at the University of Vermont College of Medicine (AHEC), to establish a rural primary care physician scholarship program. This scholarship would provide medical school tuition for up to five third-year and up to five fourth-year medical students who commit to practicing primary care in a rural, health professional shortage or medically under-served area of Vermont. Recipients must incur two-years of full-time service or four-years of half-time service for each academic year of tuition covered by the scholarship. The House-passed version includes an enforcement mechanism requiring any scholarship recipient who does not fulfill the rural practice requirements to repay the scholarship award in full with interest. The bill also establishes an advisory group to oversee the State's Health Care Workforce Strategic Plan that includes representation from: 
  • the Green Mountain Care Board’s primary care advisory group;
  • the Vermont State Colleges;
  • the Area Health Education Centers’ workforce initiative;
  • federally qualified health centers;
  • Vermont hospitals;
  • Vermont physicians;
  • and long-term care facilities.  
The bill, which is a VMS priority and may be taken up during the FY 2021 Budget discussion in August, currently reallocates $1 million from a Substance Use Disorder fund to match federal dollars to fund the scholarships. The bill would establish these scholarships as an annual investment in Vermont's primary care workforce.

VMS Position: Support
Status: Passed the House, In Senate Health and Welfare Committee

Mental Health

Bill to Create Forensic Mental Health System Passes the Senate
S.183which aims to create a forensic mental health system in Vermont, passed the Senate on March 10, 2020 and was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on March 12, before the Statehouse shutdown. Although this bill was not deemed critical during the COVID pandemic, it is a priority for VMS and the Vermont Psychiatric Association (VPA) and proposes tangible improvements to Vermont's systems of care for individuals with mental illness and justice involvement. The Senate-passed bill includes these provisions:
  • Requires evaluations regarding competency to stand trial and sanity at the time of the alleged offense to be presented in separate reports. The sanity evaluation will only be initiated if the person is deemed competent to stand trial. 
  • When a person is found incompetent to stand trial, legal counsel will be assigned from Vermont Legal Aid.
  • The Department of Mental Health (DMH) will be entitled to appear and call witnesses when a person is found incompetent to stand trial.
  • 10 days before being released from the custody of DMH, the Commissioner will inform the State's Attorney of the County where the prosecution took place. The State's Attorney will provide notice to any victim of the offense. 
  • Directs DMH and the Department of Corrections to prepare an assessment of the quality of mental health services delivered in Vermont's correctional facilities.
  • Creates a comprehensive work group to study what other states have done to create forensic mental health systems
Further action on this bill in 2020 is uncertain, but the VMS will continue to advocate for it to pass. 

VMS Position: Support
Status: Passed the Senate, In House Judiciary Committee

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Practice of Medicine

Stem Cell Clinic Bill Unlikely to Advance
S.252a bill requiring patients to receive a notice informing them that stem cell products are not approved by the FDA before they are administered, passed the Senate Health and Welfare Committee in mid-March, 2020, but has not yet been considered by the full Senate. This bill, which is a VMS-supported bill , was informed by the VMS Resolution regarding Stem Cell Clinics adopted in 2019. The legislation intends to bring awareness to the potential health risks to Vermont patients from stem cell clinics that promote unregulated and unproven stem cell products, claiming they help improve a number of conditions  It is unclear if the Senate floor will consider the proposal in the August/September legislative session.

VMS Position: Support
Status: On Notice Calendar in Senate 

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Board of Medical Practice Employer Disciplinary Reporting Bill Passes 
updates the procedures of the Board of Medical Practice and the licensure of physicians and podiatrists. The bill includes changes to the requirements for reporting disciplinary actions taken by employers against physicians. VMS worked with the Board of Medical Practice to resolve initial concerns with the proposal, and was comfortable with the final language, as adopted.  Section 1317 of the Act spells out which disciplinary actions by employers must be reported to the Board.  It includes reporting acts or omissions of a licensee that occur in the course of practice and result in one or more of the following:

  • Resignation, leave of absence, termination, or nonrenewal of an employment relationship or contract
  • Revocation, suspension, restriction, relinquishment, or nonrenewal of a right or privilege.
  • Written discipline that constitutes a censure, reprimand, or admonition, if it is the second or subsequent censure, reprimand, or admonition within a 12-month period for the same or related acts or omissions that previously resulted in written censure, reprimand, or admonition.
  • Fine or any other form of monetary penalty imposed as a form of discipline.
  • Required education, remedial counseling, or monitoring that is imposed as a result of a completed, contested disciplinary process.

Employers would have to report such actions within 30 days following the date on which the disciplinary action was taken. 

VMS Position: Monitor
Status: Signed into Law July, 1, 2020. Effective Immediately.

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Insurance Regulation

Bill to Prohibit Genetic Discrimination Advances to the House
S.197, a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s genetic information in relation to employment, labor relations, insurance coverage, and the provision of social and medical services passed the Senate on May 27, 2020 and was referred to the House Health Care Committee. This bill prevents insurance coverage being conditioned on genetic testing results from the member or employee or results from a family member's genetic test.

VMS Position: Support
Status: Passed the Senate, In House Health Care Committee

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Zero Cost-Sharing for Primary Care Bill Stalls
S.245, a bill to provide zero cost-sharing for primary care, did not advance this session. Louis DiNicola, M.D., Pediatrician, AAPVT Chapter, Vermont Medical Society and Paul Reiss, Vermont Academy of Family Physicians, testified in Senate Finance in support in February 2020.

VMS Position: Support
Status: Died, In Senate Finance Committee

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Bill to Limit Insulin Medication Cost-Sharing Advances to the Senate
S.296, a bill to limit cost-sharing for insulin, passed the Senate March 11, 2020 and was referred to the House Health Care Committee. The Senate-passed bill would limit a beneficiary’s total out-of-pocket responsibility for prescription insulin medications to $100.00 per 30-day supply, regardless of the amount, type, or number of insulin medications prescribed. 

VMS Position: Support
Status: Passed the Senate, In House Health Care Committee

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Senate Finance Committee Holds Fair Contracting Bill 
S.309a bill aimed at requiring fair contracting between physicians and insurers, was brought up for debate several times in the Senate Finance Committee, but did not pass out of the Committee before the Crossover deadline in mid-March. This VMS priority bill would have repealed a current BCBSVT payment policy that holds referring in-network providers financially liable for up to $1,000 for referring to out-of-network care. The VMS, along with health care organizations including the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (VAHHS) and HealthFirst, testified in the Committee that this policy essentially serves as a gag rule and threatens the ability for physicians to refer Vermonters to the best care On March 11, 2020, an agreement was reached between most of the interested parties, including VMS, to study the scope of unanticipated out-of-network costs for health care services borne by Vermonters. The agreement also stated that DFR would create a workgroup to discuss mechanisms to reduce patient and employer financial liability for unanticipated out-of-network medical bills and  to study surprise billing fixes at both the State and federal level.  The parties still disagreed on how to resolve the BCBSVT payment policy while the work group was studying the issue.  In the meantime, the bill has failed to advance, because it did not make the Crossover deadline, but the VMS will continue to advocate for more fair contracting terms for referring to and paying for out-of-network care. 

VMS Position: Support
Status: Died, Did Not Make Crossover, In Senate Finance Committee

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Professional Regulation/Scope of Practice

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Modernizing Physician Assistant Licensure and Regulation Bill Enacted
Act 123/S.128, legislation streamlining the licensure and regulation of PAs in Vermont, was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Scott on July 1, 2020. VMS actively supports the changes included in S.128 and began working with the PA Association of Vermont (PAAV) in 2017 to discuss regulatory changes aimed at modernizing PA regulation. The changes include:
  • Simplifying documentation and administrative requirements in the PA-physician relationship. The proposal removes the need for delegation agreements with primary and secondary supervising physicians. Instead, PAs are now required to practice according to a practice agreement signed by one practice-identified physician.
  • Updating the terminology away from physician “supervision” according to a “delegation agreement.” Instead PA practice will be defined as the practice of medicine by a PA in a practice agreement with a physician.
  • Practice agreements will be written by the practice and describe the process between the PA and physician/physician group for communication, availability, decision-making and periodic joint evaluation of the PA’s services and must include an agreement that the PA’s scope of practice shall be limited to medical care that is within the education, training and experience of the PA.
  • Removing physician liability for PA practice solely based on being the participating physician who completes a practice agreement. Instead physician assistants are legally liable for their medical decision-making.
  • Modernizes language previously found in the PA section of statute regarding delegating activities to other medical technicians or assistants.

VMS Position: Support
Signed into Law July 1, 2020, Effective Immediately, Excepting Sec. 1 - Effective January 1, 2021

OPR Bill Aimed at Authorizing Pharmacy Prescribing Passes Senate
S.220, the 2020 Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) bill that includes language to expand the scope of practice of pharmacists to give them limited prescribing authority passed the Senate June 17, 2020 and was referred to the House Government Operations Committee. The bill would require the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) to approve state protocols for pharmacy prescribing after public comment for:

  • opioid antagonists;
  • epinephrine auto-injectors;
  • tobacco cessation products;
  • tuberculin purified protein derivative products;
  • self-administered hormonal contraceptives;
  • dietary fluoride supplements;
  • influenza vaccines;
  • emergency prescribing of albuterol or glucagon while contacting EMS;
  • tests for SARS-CoV for asymptomatic individuals; and
  • an appropriate vaccine to mitigate the effects on public health after finding that existing channels for vaccine administration are insufficient to meet the public health need.

VMS, as well as our primary care partners at the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter and Vermont Academy of Family Physicians took part in stakeholder meetings with OPR and the Board of Pharmacy over the fall and have been engaged in providing feedback on the legislative proposal throughout the session and are comfortable with this final proposal. Click here to read the VMS memo of support. Before it passed the Senate, the bill was amended to include tests for SARS-CoV in the pharmacy scope expansion and language intended to allow pharmacies to provide SARS-CoV vaccinations if necessary. VDH has released a Health Advisory on May 21, 2020, authorizing Vermont pharmacists to order and administer COVID-19 tests approved by FDA for pharmacy-based sample collection or administration. Find the Board of Pharmacy COVID-19 Emergency Guidance here. The bill would sunset the SARS-CoV testing authority on July 1, 2021. A separate section of the bill (Section 3108), which VMS also supports, would require the Office of Professional Regulation to complete a study of any scope of practice expansion proposals. The bill will have to be taken up by the House Government Operations Committee in the August/September session if it is to pass this year.

VMS Position: Support
Status: Passed the Senate, In House Government Operations Committee

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Public Health

Paid Family Leave 
H.107, a 2019 bill that would have created a state paid family leave program, was vetoed by the Governor January 31, 2020. The bill would have covered up to 12 weeks of paid leave for maternity/paternity bonding and up to 8 weeks to cover care for ill family members. This program would have covered the entire state and differed significantly from the Governor's proposed voluntary paid leave program, which only covered state employees and 6 weeks of leave. In the Governor's veto message he said he could not support the legislation because of the complicated bureaucracy proposed to administer it and the $29 million payroll tax placed on employers and employees. In 2019, the VMS Council voted in support of a resolution that recommends 12 weeks of paid leave for all parents as the evidence shows mental, physical and public health benefits for families. 

VMS Position: Support
Vetoed by the Governor
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Bill to Decriminalize Bupernorphine Possession Will Not Advance
H.162, a bill aimed at removing buprenorphine from the drug class that carries a misdemeanor crime of possession of a narcotic, was "ordered to lie" before debate in the full House June 3, 2020. Before this order, which effectively stalls the bill, it was amended and passed by the House Human Services Committee March 11, 2020. The version that passed the Committee would have decriminalized possession of 224 mg or less of bupernorphine, with the goal saving as many opioid users from overdosing on heroin and/or fentanyl as possible. The VMS has a neutral position on the bill, due in part to the concern that by effectively legalizing possession of buprenorphine with or without a prescription, diversion rates could spike, which could lead to less clinician-supervised treatment and unintended health care consequences. Understanding the arguments that patients use street buprenorphine to self-medicate and initiate treatment rather than as a drug of abuse, other methods of increasing access to treatment are preferable (such as prescription treatment on demand). This bill could come up during the Fall 2020 session, VMS will continue to monitor.  

VMS Position: Monitor
Died, Did Not Make Crossover, Ordered to lie in the House
Act 142/H.572a new law that adds a licensed substance use disorder practitioner, a mental health prescribing expert and a licensed social worker to the Maternal Mortality Review Panel passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor July 13, 2020. Before passage, the Senate amended the bill to require the Panel to consider health disparities and social determinants of health, including race and ethnicity in maternal death reviews.

VMS Position: Support
Signed into Law July 13, 2020. Effective Immediately
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Youth Contraception Bill Passes House
, a bill aimed at making contraception more available to youth, was passed by the House March 13, 2020 and referred to the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Pediatrician Barb Frankowski, M.D., and UVMMC resident Allison Walker testified in support of this legislation, which as passed seeks to provide further opportunities for Vermont adolescents to learn about and obtain contraceptives in order to prevent or reduce unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. The bill now requires all schools across the State to provide condoms free of charge.
 The bill also contains provisions authorizing pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraceptives consistent with a State protocol approved by the Commissioner of Health.  This piece of the bill overlaps with the pharmacy prescribing authority created in S. 220 and will need to be reconciled between the two bills.  H. 663, a priority for the House Human Services Committee, is likely to advance in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee when the legislature returns from recess. 

VMS Position: Support
Passed the House, In Senate Health and Welfare Committee
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Global Warming Solutions Act Passes House and Senate
H.688, a bill known as the Global Warming Solutions Act, passed the Senate June 26, 2020, but the legislature adjourned before the House voted to support the Senate changes. This bill, which is a House Democrat priority, proposes to create a legally enforceable system by which Vermont will reduce its statewide greenhouse gas emissions and establishes strategies to mitigate climate risks and build resiliency to climate change. The Senate-passed version would require the state to reduce greenhouse gas pollution to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. Emissions would need to be 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% below by 2050. The Governor has not indicated whether he would veto the bill, but expressed major concerns with the bill at the start of the 2020 session. The legislation is likely to advance to a Conference Committee for the House and Senate to iron out differences when lawmakers return in August. In 2019, the VMS adopted a resolution, Reducing Carbon Pollution Emissions in Vermont, urging decision-makers to take actions to reduce carbon emissions to better protect the health of all Vermonters. 

VMS Position: Support
Passed the House and Senate, In Conference Committee
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Commercial Marijuana Bill Assigned to Conference Committee
S.54, a bill aimed at creating a commercial market for marijuana, passed the House on February 27, 2020 and was sent back to the Senate. The Senate did not concur with the amended bill, which the House passed with a 14% excise tax and 6% sales tax, and directly before the Statehouse shutdown it was assigned to Conference Committee. The Senate-passed bill contained no prevention or education funding, no marketing and advertising restrictions, would have allowed the sale of high-potency edible products and would have required municipalities to vote to “opt out” of allowing retail sale locations. After consistent education and information from VMS and AAPVT members and policy staff, the version that passed the House ultimately included: 
  1. Prevention Funding - 30% of the cannabis revenue would be directed towards the Substance Misuse Prevention Fund, yet this funding is capped at $6 million. The House directs the additional 6% sales tax towards evidence-based afterschool programs, with a focus on the underserved populations of the State.
  2. Advertising Restrictions Before it passed the House they voted to remove the ability for any cannabis advertising. 
  3. Cannabis Products - there are now specific potency limitations and THC ceilings for each regulated product; flavored cannabis products are now prohibited. 
For more information on the House-passed amendments to the bill click here. It is unclear whether this legislation, which would require a substantial upfront investment by the State to create the salaried Cannabis Control Board, will advance during the public health emergency. It is also questionable whether the legislature will have time to resolve the major differences between the House and Senate versions.  The Governor has also indicated he would veto any marijuana commercialization legislation that does not contain his road-side testing requirements. The VMS will be monitoring this bill closely when the legislature returns.

VMS Position: Oppose
Passed the House and Senate, in Conference Committee
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Bill to Ban the Sale of Crib Bumpers in Vermont
S.65, a bill submitted by the AAP Vermont Chapter in 2019 to ban the sale of padded crib bumpers in Vermont, passed the Senate, but has not received action yet in the House Human Services Committee. VMS and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Vermont Chapter will continue to advocate for the Committee to take up this important bill. A special thank you to Rebecca Bell, M.D. for her work shedding light on this important safety topic and for her testimony in support of this bill.
VMS Position: Support
Status: Passed the Senate, In House Human Services Committee

Firearm Legislation Passes 
S.169, an omnibus bill of firearm-related proposals, which included a 24-hour waiting period for the purchase of a handgun following a background check, was vetoed by the Governor June 10, 2019. Before the 2020 legislative session House and Senate leadership expressed a willingness to override the Governor's veto. Notice of the override vote was on the Senate calendar for the entire session and continued to be passed over due in part the House not having the 3/4ths majority to override the Governor. A special thank you to Rebecca Bell, M.D. for her dedication to preventing gun-related injuries and her testimony on youth impulsivity and suicide risk. 
VMS Position: Support
Status: Vetoed by the Governor. Possible Override Vote

Racial Equity Bill Enacted
Act 147/S.219, legislation aimed at 
addressing racial bias and excessive use of force by law enforcement, passed the legislature and was signed into law July 13, 2020. This bill, which urges community policing strategies based around de-escalation and establishing a law enforcement culture that fosters transparency and accountability, was driven by the deaths of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor. On June 2, 2020, the Vermont Medical Society, along with the Vermont Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter, released a joint statement denouncing the recent brutal and senseless acts of violence towards Black people by law enforcement officers and acknowledging the impact systemic racism has in driving adverse health outcomes in our State and across the nation.

VMS Position: Support
Status: Signed into Law July 13, 2020. Please Read the Act for Effective Dates

Senate Bill Requires Schools to Provide Menstrual Hygiene Products
S.224, a bill that includes a VMS-supported proposal requiring all Vermont schools to provide menstrual hygiene products freely for all students who need them, passed the Senate and advances to the House Education Committee. 

VMS Position: Support
Status: Passed by the Senate. In House Education Committee.

Flavored Tobacco Ban Bill Hits Political Impasse
a bill to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, started the session as a priority for lawmakers concerned with the sharp spike in the use of JUUL and other flavored vape products. This bill passed the Senate Health and Welfare Committee by a vote of 5-0 and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee where it failed to advance. Before the COVID-19 Statehouse shutdown, some Senators stated that the bill, which includes the prohibition of the sale of menthol products, would infringe on the rights of adults to access their vice of choice. The bill was not voted on in the Senate Finance Committee and is not likely to advance despite emails and compelling testimony from VMS members in support of the bill. Propero Gogo, M.D., cardiologist at UVMMC, spoke at a press conference in support in January, 2020. Rebecca Bell, M.D., Pediatric Intensivist at UVMMC and L.E. Faricy, Pediatric Pulmonologist, also testified in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee on the health impacts of increased youth use of all flavored tobacco products including vaping products. Click here to read their comments. 

VMS Position: Support
Died, In Senate Finance Committee
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Universal Afterschool Access Bill Passes Senate
S.335a bill to create a taskforce for Universal Afterschool Access, passed the Senate and advanced to the House Education Committee. The House Education Committee had just begun to take testimony on this bill before the COVID-19 shutdown. VMS Deputy Director, Stephanie Winters, testified that VMS & AAPVT strongly support universal access for all youth to evidence-based, quality afterschool programming as a critical prevention tool. Drawing on evidence from the Iceland Model, this programming has been proven to increase protective factors against risky behaviors for youth. Currently, the funding for the afterschool expansion is included in S.54, the cannabis tax and regulate bill, which directs revenue from the proposed 6% sales and use tax to afterschool programming. The VMS will continue to support this legislation and to urge lawmakers not to rely on marijuana sales for its implementation. 

VMS Position: Support
Passed the Senate, In House Education Committee

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Vermont Medical Society · PO Box 1457 · Montpelier, VT 05601 · USA