Rap from the Rep

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There is no place for intrigue and excitement like the Vermont Statehouse as the end of a biennium approaches. We all come back from town meeting knowing that if legislation is to make it to law this session it has to pass out of committee this week in order to have time to work it’s way through the Senate.

My committee, Health Care, passed H.559. This is a bill which creates a health care exchange that will bring Vermont into compliance with the federal Affordable Care Act. I am convinced that the exchange will make health care much more affordable to Vermonters. An added benefit is that the exchange is a first step in the decoupling of health insurance from employment. Presently small businesses spend more than $100,000,000 toward their employee’s health care. With the exchange, individual Vermonters will qualify for tax credits making coverage much more affordable. Hopefully this will be a first step toward bringing universal health care coverage to all Vermont residents.

We are also working on a bill mandating that all children attending public schools be fully vaccinated. Presently parents are allowed an exemption from this requirement if they philosophically or for religious reasons are opposed to vaccinations. I am receiving dozens of emails each day asking that I keep this exemption intact. Some studies indicate that Vermont has one of the highest percentages of unvaccinated children in the country. I wonder how this is relates to studies that show we are also the healthiest state in the country.

Another intriguing bill that we recently passed out of committee prohibits the use of tanning beds by anyone under the age of eighteen. Vermont has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the U.S. My committee heard testimony that use of tanning beds by young people increases their chance of getting melanoma by seventy-five percent.

The Agricultural committee is working on mandating all foods containing genetically modified organisms to be labelled as such. I am a strong supporter of this legislation, and I try to grow most of my own food. My two cows, twenty chickens and garden allow me to know what I eat. I think all Vermonters should have the ability know what is in the food they eat. Talking with members of the Ag. committee they say if what you eat isn’t labeled organic it probably contains GMOs, and this is something I think we have a right to know about.

I want to mention that I am proud that the voters at Johnson town meeting passed a resolution asking our congressional delegation to support a constitutional amendment stating that corporations are not people. For those of you interested in why state college tuitions are increasing, give this article a read: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/02/why-tuition-has-skyrocketed-at-state-schools/

Please feel free to visit me in Montpelier or contact me at markewoodward@hotmail.com.

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