Here’s what happened in the 2012 Legislative Session. For more in depth details on any of these items please see our 2012 Legislative Wrap Up
The bill S.199, introduced by Senator Mullin, originally removed the philosophical exemption to the requirement that all children entering public school or a registered childcare center receive all recommended vaccines. Voices for Vermont’s Children supported this bill as the most immediate and effective way to reverse Vermont’s declining immunization rates.
The bill passed at the end of the session in an amended form that left in tact the philosophical exemption to vaccination, but increased data reporting requirements that will allow the state to conclusively determine the cause of Vermont’s declining immunization rates.
Juvenile Jurisdiction H.751
H.751, which passed in the final week of the session, is intended to enhance opportunities to treat youths ages 16 and 17 as juveniles in the family division of the superior court by extending the age of jurisdiction for six months beyond a youth’s 18th birthday, while preserving the discretion of the state’s attorneys to bring criminal charges in appropriate cases. Voices for Vermont’s Children supported this bill because research and evidence show that young people prosecuted as juveniles are much more likely to receive the services necessary for their rehabilitation and are much less likely to reoffend.
Health Care H.559
The legislature worked on and passed H.559, a bill related to health care reform implementation in preparation for the Health Care Exchange, which is mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) and set to begin in January 2014. Voices for Vermont’s Children strongly supports Vermont’s efforts toward health care reform and lauds both the legislature and the administration for their work this year.
S.92, an act that requires schools to use green cleaning products successfully, moved through the legislature early in the session. Voices for Vermont’s Children strongly supported this bill and was very happy to see it pass. Thanks to this legislation, distributors of cleaning products will be limited to an approved list of safe cleaning products that they may sell to schools. Schools will, however, be permitted to use up their old cleaning supplies before transitioning to those on the approved list.
S.24, The Kid-Safe Products Act is a bill intended to protect Vermont’s children from exposure to harmful chemicals. Voices for Vermont’s Children supports this bill, which, unfortunately, stalled in the legislature this year.
Vermont Legislature Takes Important Step Toward Ensuring Comprehensive Dental Coverage For Pregnant and Postpartum WomenThe
Vermont Oral Health Care for All Coalition applauds the Legislature for its vote to provide comprehensive dental coverage for pregnant and postpartum women who receive Dr. Dynasaur/Medicaid benefits.
To learn more about the Vermont Oral Health Care for All Coalition and its agenda, please visit www.vtoralhealth4all.org.
Early Childhood Care and Education
At the close of the 2012 legislative session on Saturday, May 5th, the Kids Are Priority One Coalition, working alongside key partners, made significant progress on several fronts:
1. $116,000 in the FY13 (July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013) budget for 2 more child care licensors, plus 2 additional licensors (for a total of 4 new licensors) being funded for two years by the Turrell Fund, with the understanding that the state will pick up the cost of these two licensors at the end of the two-year period.
2. $100,000 from the Workforce Education Training Fund earmarked for professional development of the early childhood and afterschool workforce.
3. A directive to Building Bright Futures to develop recommendations by January 15, 2013, for increasing access to high-quality early education.
4. A directive to Building Bright Futures to develop initial recommendations by January 15, 2013, for a long-term financial sustainability plan for funding a comprehensive system of early childhood services.
OTHER EARLY CHILDHOOD ISSUES
Strengthening Families Grants:
Effective advocacy by two early childhood programs resulted in lively discussions about public funding of early care and education programs that serve a large percentage of children from low-income families. These discussions led to two legislative decisions:
1. A $200,000 one-time allocation for FY12 (ending June 30, 2012) for eligible Strengthening Families grantees (grantees have already applied for these funds, and the funds have been disbursed by the Child Development Division);
2. Language in the FY13 budget directing the Department for Children and Families (DCF) to set aside up to one-half of one percent from the Child Care Financial Assistance (subsidy) Program to assist programs experiencing financial hardship. Disbursement of these funds for this purpose is left to the discretion of the DCF Commissioner.
Vermont Early Educators United
Many early childhood educators and their partners from the American Federation of Teachers worked to pass a bill in the Senate that gives child care providers the right to choose to collectively bargain with the state over issues that the state controls. Although the bill died in the Senate, Vermont Early Educators United states that it will be back next biennium to work for passage of the legislation.