MONTPELIER — House lawmakers have given preliminary approval to a bill that would raise the smoking age from 18 to 21. The House voted Tuesday to approve a bill that gradually raises the age someone can buy, possess and use all forms of tobacco during the next three years, and would increase taxes on tobacco products to compensate for lost state revenue. “Our hope is this will help move Vermont to a culture of healthier youth, less government spending and a brighter future,” said Rep. Michael Mrowicki, D-Putney, one of 16 co-sponsors of the bill. Under the terms of the bill, the age to purchase, possess and use tobacco would rise from 18 to 19, beginning Jan. 1, 2017. Continue Reading →
MONTPELIER — Health advocates are calling for a tax on sugary drinks that could raise as much as $34 million in new revenue. Members of Alliance for a Healthier Vermont — a coalition of more than 30 state organizations — gathered Tuesday at the State House to urge lawmakers to pass legislation that would impose a tax of 2 cents an ounce on sugary drinks. “Some of you may have seen stories on a report that claims Vermont is the second-healthiest state in the nation. But beyond that happy-sounding headline, there is a sadder reality that deserves to be reported,” said Anthony Iarrapino, campaign director of Alliance for a Healthier Vermont. “The reality is, Vermont is not immune from obesity and the preventative diseases it causes.”
According to the state Department of Health, 60 percent of Vermonters are overweight or obese; for children, that number is 29 percent. Continue Reading →
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House lawmakers this evening rejected a last-ditch attempt to postpone action on “death with dignity,” paving the way for an hours-long debate that will likely end with the preliminary approval of legislation that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients.
An amendment offered at the outset of this highly anticipated floor debate sought to delay indefinitely action on a bill known here as “S.77.” The measure failed by a vote of 51-90, after which House Speaker Shap Smith declared an hour-long recess for dinner.
When debate resumes at 7:30 p.m., lawmakers will consider a slew of amendments, most of them authored by opponents of the legislation. Rep. Mary Morrissey, a Republican from Bennington, for instance, wants medical examiners to have to list the lethal dose of medication as the immediate cause of death for people who choose to avail themselves of what critics call “physician assisted suicide.”
Rep. Duncan Kilmartin, a Newport Republican, wants to spend $250,000 to create a “special investigations unit” at the Attorney General’s Office, where a prosecutor and investigator would work full-time probing for abuses of the new statute.
“People who are well-educated and or well-heeled may have the resources to make very informed decisions,” Kilmartin said during a Democratic caucus earlier today. Continue Reading →
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One of the surprise controversies of 2012 arrived at the Legislature in the form of a bill that sought to rescind the “philosophical exemption” invoked by hundreds of parents across Vermont to sidestep school vaccination requirements. A grassroots coalition of well-organized citizens managed to quash the legislation, convincing lawmakers to adopt a watered-down version that made it only slightly more difficult to invoke the exemption. One the top supporters of the 2012 bill, however, is renewing the push this year to address what he says are alarmingly low vaccination rates in pockets of the state. Rep. George Till, a Jericho Democrat and the lone medical doctor in the Legislature, wants to remove both the philosophical and religious exemptions for the vaccination that prevents pertussis – a.k.a. whooping cough. And at public schools where the vaccination rate drops below 90 percent, Till has a separate bill that would revoke the religious and philosophical exemptions for any vaccination. Continue Reading →