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Legislative Notes for April 19, 2012

April 14, 2012

On Tuesday, the House finished its work on reapportionment in a very positive manner and I am happy to report that I was able to support the final bill. As I previously reported the process had turned very political and this was meeting with much resistance from many members of the House including myself. My goal from the beginning of this process was to have the entire town of Milton in one legislative district. However, I soon realized that this would not be possible because the law establishes certain allowable deviations of population in all legislative districts. This is intended to ensure that everyone gets fair representation across the state and country. Milton is too large to be represented by just two representatives and yet not large enough for three representatives of its own. As a result, Milton’s legislative districts will remain in their current configuration and unchanged for the next decade as long as the Senate concurs with the House and the Governor signs the bill into law.
S.199 requiring mandatory vaccinations created quite a stir on the House floor Thursday. Debate on whether public health trumped a parent’s right to refuse to immunize their children when attending public schools lasted several hours. It was one of the most memorable debates I have witnessed in my tenure as a member of the legislature. It was clear from the beginning that this was a personal issue for many and that party politics would not be a factor in deciding the fate of this bill. In the end, a parent’s right to the philosophical exemption prevailed. The bill will invest some additional resources into the Health Department to study this issue in more depth. I did support passage of this bill and believe that the final version is a positive product of compromise.
The House also passed a bill of significant importance to me and other volunteer department members. H.762 Workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation bill included a provision that inserts in Vermont law that all firefighters while under the direction of their department are covered should they be injured. This issue arose last summer when a member of a neighboring fire department was injured working on the fire station. The member was initially denied workers compensation coverage by the insurance company because working on the fire station was not one of the items specified in state statute. The injured member did eventually receive compensation for the injury and lost wages after appealing the ruling of the insurance company to the Department of Labor. I testified on this issue and fully supported the bill throughout the legislative process. Upon passage of this bill, many Fire Chiefs around the state including myself will rest a little easier knowing that our members are protected.
In response to concern expressed about my “no” vote on the working landscape bill in last week’s editorial section of this paper. I fully support our working landscape and many of the items in the bill. However, I cannot support creating a new program without a perpetual funding mechanism. This new program did not get funded in the initial appropriations bill and is expected to cost substantially more in future years. I feel that it is irresponsible to create a new program without a funding source and the legislature should not continue this practice.
As your representative, I look forward to representing you and your concerns in Montpelier. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. I am very interested in hearing from you. During the session, I can be reached at the Statehouse by calling 1-800-322-5616 or by cell at 373-5960. My email address is dturner@leg.state.vt.us. My web-site address is www.donturnerjr.com. Thank you and have a great week.

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