I heard a comment from our State's Lt. Governor, Phil Scott, that in a past session of the Legislature, no less than 1,200 bills were introduced. I don't know for certain, but I guess in the 2016 Legislative session, a similar amount was introduced. The net result was that for this year's session, 122 bills were passed.
I wonder, does anyone in Montpelier take the time to determine if those who work day in and day out in state government have the capacity to deal with the vast amount of laws being adopted each year? Frankly, I don't see how they can.
The Legislature has a propensity to accept numerous amounts of bills from its 180 members. Once that happens, the proposed bill gets distributed – either in print form or electronically to the various members. Hearings are scheduled where testimony is provided by consultants. Lobbyists and the public are standing by and get to contribute their opinions.
Of the 122 bills signed by the Governor, there were several one could ask, if they really needed to be addressed this year, with so many other important issues at stake – opiate crisis, economy, EB-5 scandal, school district consolidation and, of course, the continuing dysfunctional state health care system to name just a few.
Specifically, some of the signed bills were: H-249, an act relating to inter-municipal services, H-559, an act relating to an exemption from licensure for visiting team physicians, and H-690, an act relating to cataloguing and aligning health care performance measures. There was even S-157, an act relating to breast density notification and education.
I am sure there are some who will vigorously defend the purpose and passing of the above. Here is the point – each one of the bills adopted must be worked into the various state agencies for implementation. In many instances, this means reprogramming that agency's computer systems at a time when so many of the state's electronic data systems are dysfunctional/outdated/hacked and up for replacement.
The Vermont Legislature has a tendency not to learn from past mistakes – instead, it just keeps considering more legislation. A prime example was what had taken place in the 2015 session. That body, in the closing days of the session, adopted Act 46. This was a massive piece of legislation that would have a serious impact on dozens of state school districts, as well as the Department of Education and Department of Taxes. I am afraid to ask how many members actually read the bill before it was adopted.
In the opening days of the 2016 session, panic ensued at the Statehouse. Act 46 needed some immediate changes, otherwise, many towns were going to be adversely impacted. The emergency changes were made, but if you listen to those who are campaigning for state office, from both political parties, more changes are still required.
Space does not permit me to discuss the major fiasco that took place in the adoption of Vermont Health Connect – which is still going on after hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to correct the many mistakes in another, hastily approved Act.
State government has become a very complex business. Just try to decipher and implement the 42 programs of the Agency of Human Services must have to deal with. If State Legislators were the equivalent of the board of directors of a commercial company, they would never impose upon the company the mass of mandates that they come up with each year.
Is it too much to ask our Legislature to accept a moratorium on new legislation in order for our state workers to implement what laws we have – effectively and efficiently? The need to consider a thousand proposed bills in each session is outrageous, irresponsible, and just adds more dysfunction to State government.
— Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington