NEWPORT CITY – Diane Peel, a member of the 99 Percent and the Vermont Workers Center, encouraged Vermont lawmakers to support bills H.97 and S.29 at Monday’s Legislative Breakfast.
According to the Vermont Legislative website, H.97 and S.29 “Proposes to improve the quality of child care and early learning programs for Vermont’s children and families by establishing a new model of collaboration between the state and child care providers that recognizes the critical importance of child care educators in the delivery of high-quality early childhood education.” It would allow childcare workers to negotiate compensation from the state, much like a union.
Peel, a registered nurse at North Country Hospital, expressed concerns about a lack of childcare providers at evening or late night hours. She said healthcare workers often have to work unusual hours. Peel, at one point, had to go from working full-time to part-time, because she could not find childcare when she needed it. Childcare workers get low salaries and do not get many opportunities for professional development.
Sen. Vince Illuzzi, (R-Orleans/Essex), one of the keynote speakers Monday morning, said S.29 is in his committee and the House passed H.97 last year and the bill is now stuck in the Senate Rules Committee. “Which gives you a clue there isn’t a lot of support for the bill by the leadership of the Vermont Senate,” said Illuzzi, who added that Democrats control the legislature "by an overwhelming majority."
Illuzzi said it's unusual for Democrats to oppose such a bill, but that they have problems with some of the language in it.
The traditional model by which workers unionize is they collectively get together and negotiate pay, benefits and other work conditions with their employer. “H.97 is different than that. It allows employers and employees to organize for the sole purpose of negotiating greater reimbursement rates from the State of Vermont for childcare providers.”
Other states have enacted similar bills.
“The state has done the best it can with reimbursement rates, but not to the point where folks feel they are getting enough reimbursement, much like doctors think the state is underpaying them,” said Illuzzi.
The bill has not gained the majority of senatorial support because it creates an unusual relationship between employers and employees on one side and the state on the other, Illuzzi said.
Healthcare was also on the minds of the handful of people who attended the breakfast. Pam Ladds, also a member of the 99 percent, said she is from Britain, which has had nationalized healthcare since 1947.
Ladds has lived in American for 30 years and believes healthcare is a right for everyone. “I see a system that is not working,” said Ladds.
The current system doesn’t provide healthcare and, instead, feeds insurance companies, she asserted. “Is Vermont at any point going to be willing to look beyond feeding the insurance companies and move to more of a Medicare system, which it could do? It would solve a lot of bickering back and forth.”
Illuzzi agreed that insurance companies are no friend to the insured. He said a number of years ago, the CEO of Blue Cross was given a multimillion dollar retirement package. “I have no respect for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont because of that fact alone,” Illuzzi said. “They claim to be non-profits, but they’re non-profits because they essentially pay themselves anything that would look like a profit.”
Single payer cannot happen in Vermont unless it gets the nod from the federal government, said Illuzzi, who has refrained from making personal comments until he sees details on such a plan.
Rep. Mark Higley of Lowell, like Illuzzi, is concerned about the number of exemptions and if there will be enough people to fund the program. He said proponents want to look at outcome versus volume of patients.
Jeannie Young of Craftsbury said it’s ironic that the state would put a three year moratorium on fracking when the wind towers in Lowell went through smoothly. “Once they’re destroyed, they’re destroyed,” said Young. “We didn’t look what this will do to the water system and the protection of the water before we let them destroy our mountain.”
The Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee looked at the fracking bill, said Higley, who said some originally wanted a five year moratorium. “My understanding is there aren't any gas and oil wells in Vermont at the present time,” Higley said.
Fracking is used to extract gas from underground and has been known to cause chemical pollution in ground and well water. (http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2011/12/08/epa-blames-fracking-f... )