Committee takes testimony on opioids

Town meeting marks about the halfway point of the legislative session, commonly referred to as crossover. Bills that started in the House move to the Senate and vice versa. Interestingly, there are no legislative rules associated with crossover and occasionally the House will pass a bill that does see action in the Senate.

Mostly crossover is associated more with budget passage in the House and less about policy. One thing is certain, crossover equates to some long days debating bills that committees have been working on over the last few weeks.

Case in point, the committee I serve on just started to take testimony on a bill that asks the question: What changes can be made to stem the overdose deaths in Vermont associated with fentanyl and other opioids? In short, what should we be doing that we are not doing?

In our first — and only — day of testimony so far, we heard about the need to remove prior authorization requirements by insurance companies to get people into treatment. We also discussed the need for access to treatment in rural areas where transportation can be an issue. I believe this week we will discuss safe injection sites, mobile methadone clinics and how to get the word out that treatment is available.

I am still hopeful that two provisions Rep. Kate Donnally and I proposed to the rural economic development bill (H.581) will be taken up by the House Committee on Natural Resources this session. One removes the trigger for jurisdiction based on the number of housing units within a certain geographic area and the other removes the need for remediation of prime agricultural soils in downtowns or village centers.

Because they are part of this omnibus bill that deals with reforms to Act 250, they could be attached to a Senate bill that is expected to come to the House in the next week or so. Removing barriers to building housing is a priority of mine. In a report I just received from Lamoille Housing Partnership, there are 508 households on its waitlist with 68 percent needing subsidies.

I received good news from the Senate that the Office of the Child Advocate will be a priority of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare after crossover. The committee wants to make sure the priorities of the Joint Legislative Child Protection Oversite Committee match those of the advocate. Those priorities include making sure the state’s information technology is up to date, oversight of residential programs, implementing the Families First Prevention Service Act, and providing appropriate interventions to youth in custody of the state.

I am looking forward to this bill moving to the governor’s desk and will keep you updated.
My town meeting report is available at the town offices. Reach out directly if you would like a copy mailed or emailed.

Dan Noyes, a Democrat from Wolcott, also represents Belvidere, Hyde Park and Johnson in the Vermont House of Representatives.