While many of the bills I sponsored or led on in 2016 were not always show stoppers or in the news, they were meaningful and had a great success rate.
1. Combating Opiate Addiction (S. 243)
After visiting a community forum in Richmond on that town’s struggle with heroin and opiate addiction, Michael became the lead sponsor of this bill, which ultimately passed the full legislature. It takes a comprehensive approach, including increased monitoring of prescribing habits, pharmacy and doctor shopping, and
potential limits on number of pills to be dispensed. It also calls for a statewide disposal program of unused medication as well as greater mandatory education for doctors, medical students and other providers. Pharmacists will become more involved in a team approach to pain treatment and monitoring abuses. Telemedicine will also be used to enhance team treatment. Towns will be eligible for local financial grants to fight opiate abuse. More prescribing of withdrawal blockers like buprenorphine will be supported and most of the money for all these proposals will come from pharmaceutical manufacturers, who we now know benefited greatly from the sales of pain killers such as oxycodin.
2. Paid Sick Days and Medical and Family Leave(H. 187; S. 15; S. 254)
Vermont became the 5 th state to grant paid sick days (3 days, growing to 5 in two years) to its workers. Noteworthy, was the legislature’s preservation of the sick day protection for 12,000 employees of businesses with fewer than 5 employees. Senators Baruth and Sirotkin were the lead sponsors of the Senate version of this bill. Senator Sirotkin was also the lead sponsor of a broader bill, (which did not get considered this year) to grant paid maternity and family/medical leave.
3. Burlington Downtown Development(H. 873)
At the end of the 2016 session, Mayor Miro Weinberger thanked the Burlington House delegation and the Chittenden Senate Delegation for giving greater flexibility to the city’s borrowing power for the public infrastructure (e.g. new streets, utilities, etc.) of any new proposal for downtown mall redevelopment. It is important to note that even with these new financing options; the voters, not the legislature, must ultimately approve the final project design and any borrowing. Is in his words of thanks to legislators, the Mayor singled out Michael, “Thank you Senator Michael Sirotkin for leading this important legislative effort”.
4. Attorney General Oversight of Utility Ratepayer Advocacy (S. 209; H.577)
The Department of Public Service has recently been under increased scrutiny for their independence and effectiveness in representing utility ratepayers. Without passing judgment, these two bills seek another set of eyes (the Attorney General) to review these rate cases on a pilot basis.
Michael was the primary author of both bills and the pertinent portion of H.577 has become law with the cooperation of both the AG and DPS.
5.Farm to School; Universal School Meals (S. 169)
After visiting and having lunch with elementary school students at the Sustainability Academy in the Old North End, Michael was so impressed that he became the lead sponsor of
successful legislation to expand VT’s farm to school programs and to access untapped federal dollars for universal meals. Universal meals will allow more Vermont schools to serve breakfast and lunches to all their students without the administrative hassle and economic stigma of collecting fees from some students and not others. Michael was also successful in getting $75k in a tough budget this year to jump start these initiatives.
6. Dental Therapists(S.20)
After decades of representing consumer groups at the Statehouse, including the Community of Vermont Elders (COVE), Michael has seen first hand the long standing problem of access to dental care for seniors and other Vermonters of moderate means. Thus, he is proud to have been one of 3 lead sponsors of successful legislation making Vermont the first state east of the Mississippi to license dental therapists as a new mid level dental practitioner. This will not only improve access – like nurse practitioners and physicians assistants did with medicine- but will also
provide a lower cost alternative to routine mid level dental care.