The Mountain Times

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News from the Ledge

This week saw the passage of significant legislation in several areas. A bill that started out as many bills, H. 522, addresses the opioid addiction issues from many different angles: minimum standards for prescription tracking, precious metals sales regulation, limited liability for reporters of overdose (to save lives), a statewide program for safe disposal of unused prescriptions, and a pilot program for Nalaxone to prevent overdose deaths. Another bill, H. 95, requires insurance companies to notify beneficiaries of benefits due upon death of the insured. The thermal efficiency bill, H. 520, promotes weatherization of our oldest housing, to reduce heating fuel use which is twice as costly as ten years ago, and part of our heavy carbon footprint. H. 99 supports equal pay by protecting employees (who ask about flexible scheduling or inquire about co-worker's pay) from retaliation by the employer. Nationally, women still receive .84 on the dollar that men earn for the same work, but they often have more responsibilities to balance.

In the meantime, Ways and Means committee members, did the tough work of sorting out some revenue raising that passed their review. Committee chair Ancel said the committee's tax proposal "raises less revenue than the governor recommended in his budget.
"His budget included more than $34 million, and we are recommending new FY14 revenue of $23 million," she said. "We also had discussions with the Appropriations Committee about the need to put anything over the $20 million we had targeted into reserves, and we are pleased to see that's what happened. No one wants to pay additional taxes but we focused on those most able to pay and on things that are discretionary such as candy, soda and cigarettes. We didn't raise tax rates and we didn't take money from low income working families. Every member of the committee had to make compromises and as a result our tax package is balanced and I believe it maintains equity and fairness."

Appropriations takes those ideas to the greater purview of actual spending. This revenue will still need approval through bills coming to the floor, and we will continue to spend the bulk of our time moving forward with that work. Though I have reported to some constituents that I have not felt inclined to support any other revenue packages, particularly regressive taxes, I will want to consider needs before I decide whether or not to support an increase in any area. We should not just focus on spending, but should consider the policies that we want to live by. I am challenged in the task of keeping up with all of the work going on in the State House, but I hope to be responsive to your concerns.

Please e-mail with your concerns, or call 483-2854.