Tag Archives: Paul Poirier

House votes to maintain safeguards, fends off repeal of Act 39

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House on Wednesday voted to maintain safeguards in place under the state’s aid-in-dying law after defeating an effort to repeal it entirely.

On a 83 to 60 vote, the chamber defeated an amendment by independent Barre Rep. Paul Poirier to repeal Act 39, which was signed into law in 2013. The law allows terminally ill patients to receive a prescription for lethal medication.

Any patient seeking to take advantage of the law must live in Vermont and have a prognosis of less than six months to live. A doctor must also find that the patient has the capacity to make the decision to obtain the medication voluntarily.

Some provisions, however, are set to expire in July 2016 if the law is not amended. Among those are that a second doctor must concur on the prognosis, and a doctor must tell the patient in person and in writing about the nature of the diagnosis and effects of the lethal medication.

Also set to expire is a requirement that the patient must make two oral requests for the lethal drug at least 15 days apart followed by a written request with two witnesses attesting that it was made voluntarily.

Those protections built into the law are scheduled to expire because two former senators had made that a condition of their support for the law.

The House voted by voice Wednesday, after defeating Poirier’s amendment, to repeal the sunset and maintain the safeguards. The Senate approved the measure last month after fending off similar efforts to repeal the underlying law.

Poirier said Wednesday his objection to the law is philosophical.

“I don’t believe that the state of Vermont, as a government, has the right to take away the life of another human being,” he said on the floor in support of his amendment. “State sponsored end of life measures could lead us to a very, very slippery slope. Where does it end?”

Poirier said the state’s palliative care options have improved. He said all 14 hospitals in the state, as well as the Vermont Veterans Home and most nursing homes, have approved policies disallowing the aid-in-dying option for patients in their care.

“We live in a society where we respect life. We respect life even for those who are suffering,” Poirier said.

Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, was more forceful in her attacks on what she labeled an “incredibly badly written law.”

She said most of the protections originally considered by the Legislature in 2013 were whittled away to secure the support of enough lawmakers to pass it. Among the things tossed aside, she said, were most data gathering and reporting requirements.

“How, today, can we say it’s working as intended?” Donahue said. “We don’t have the information.”

Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester, said the House Human Services Committee amended the Senate version of the bill to require more data gathering and reporting. Under the changes, which the House approved Wednesday, the Department of Health will be able to identify which patients fill prescriptions under the law. And beginning in 2018, it will have to generate a biennial statistical report of information collected.

“We believe that this will increase public confidence that the law is being properly followed,” Haas said.

Donahue further charged that doctors were being shamed into participating in the voluntary program and patients are being bullied into requesting the medication. She also said the law lacks an informed consent provision.

“It is a myth that doctors and other providers do not have to participate in any way if they don’t want to and it is a myth that patients are not being pressured to consider using a prescription,” she said.

Haas, meanwhile, said state law already requires informed consent for all health care decisions so it was not necessary to include it in Act 39. And no complaints have been filed with the attorney general’s office or the Department of Health, she said.

The legislation is up for final approval in the House on Thursday. Additional amendments are expected.


Soda tax could get revote as early as Wednesday

The House Committee on Health Care looks poised to settle some unfinished business tomorrow morning, when members might reconsider their tie vote last Friday on the soda tax.

The committee by all accounts had the votes to pass the penny-per-ounce surcharge on “sugar sweetened beverages.” But when Rep. George Till departed suddenly to tend to a medical emergency (he’s a doctor), he took with him one of the ‘yes’ votes needed to pass the bill.

Committee chairman Mike Fisher proceeded with the vote anyway, which resulted in a 5-5 tie. Following the vote, Fisher declared the bill dead. But it looks like the committee is eager to resurrect the measure, and that someone will make a motion to reconsider, possibly as early as tomorrow.

The likeliest outcome, according to people closest to the issue, is a 6-5 vote in favor of the soda tax, which would raise about $24 million annually. But the provision might not have much of a shelf life.

Continue reading

Senator wants sway over Public Service Board, and more from the first bills of 2013

Forget about broad-based taxes, death with dignity, marijuana decriminalization and probitions on mountaintop wind: the first House bill of the new biennium aims to simplify judicial bookkeeping.

In a sure sign that the new session is nearly upon us, legislative staff have unveiled the texts of bills that are ready for introduction.

H1 is a gripping bit of statute that would repeal a provision requiring superior court clerks to “keep a book of judgments separate from the originals.”

Like most of the 1,000 or so bills introduced in a given biennium, H1 won’t generate much talk outside the committee to which it’s assigned. But in addition to the mundane work of legal bookkeeping, lawmakers will consider scores of bills this year that could have a real impact on the lives of the Vermonters they represent.

Take H6, introduced by Rep. Paul Poirier, the Barre City Independent who late last month dropped his insurgent candidacy for Speaker of the House. Poirier’s legislation would add “mental injury” to the list of job-related afflictions for which employees are entitled to workers’ compensation.

In the Senate’s first piece of new legislation, Sen. Tim Ashe, a Chittenden County Democrat/Progressive, wants to require judges “to consider the approximate financial cost” of a sentence before handing down a ruling.

It won’t the first go-round in Montpelier for many of the bills under consideration in 2013. Already on the calendar in the Senate is a bill relating to concussions in youth sports. Lawmakers failed to reach consensus on a proposal last year; S.4, introduced by Ashe, Sen. Dick Sears and Senate President John Campbell, would, among other things, prohibit a coach from letting a child reenter a game after suffering a concussion.

Sen. Robert Hartwell, a Bennington Democrat and vocal critic of the Public Service Board, promises to spark a lively debate with his first piece of legislation of the biennium. Hartwell, an opponent of ridgeline wind development and wireless “smart meters,” want to give the Senate more influence over the composition of the three-person panel responsible for regulating those technologies.

Hartwell’s S16 would require the governor’s appointments to the Public Service Board to first win consent from the Senate.

You can scroll through the first 24 bills of the session yourself at

http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/serviceMain.cfm, and expect to see many more added in the coming days.

Citing autocratic style, Poirier plans to challenge Smith for Speaker post

BARRE — Rep. Paul Poirier, a Barre independent, said Friday he’s planning to challenge House Speaker Shap Smith, a Morrisville Democrat, for the leadership post in January.
“I’m quite sure that is what I’m going to do,” said Poirier, who plans to make a formal announcement Wednesday. But leaving the door open to a change of heart, he said he’s about “90 percent” certain he’ll run.
A longtime Democrat who first ran as an independent in 2010, Poirier said he has been troubled by what he sees as Smith’s autocratic leadership style — a style he said has marginalized minority parties and chilled debate in Vermont’s House of Representatives. Continue reading

Merger compromise fails to quell merger controversy

Until a few minutes ago, the lone merger-related amendment in the House was an explosive bit of language requiring utilities to send checks totaling $21 million to CVPS ratepayers.

A few moments ago, we got a sneak peak at amendment No. 2 – a less aggressive measure wherein legislators ask the Department of Public Service Board to “examine whether in the current merger docket it has proceeded in a manner consistent with its obligations…”

Not surprisingly, the language isn’t terribly popular among supporters of amendment No. 1, who call it a milquetoast half-measure that will do little to right this perceived wrong.

Both amendments – and possibly a third – will get up-or-down votes in the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development later this afternoon. No. 1 will fail. No. 2, it appears, will succeed.

The underlying bill, we’re told, will arrive on the House floor Thursday, when both amendments will get a vote on the House floor (it’ll be interesting to see how many lawmakers take a walk on that one).

Conventional Statehouse wisdom says the amendment No. 1 – the one forcing utilities pay back directly the $21 mill – will fail. Rep. Paul Poirier, however, says not to believe the doubters.

“I absolutely think it will pass,” Poirier said. “I really do.”

Amendment No. 2 is a nonbinding resolution that makes mention of the $21 million controversy without rendering judgment on the utilities’ proposal to satisfy the “windfall obligation.”

The resolution reads, in part:

“Whereas, as details about the proposed merger and the MOU have become known by the general public, the people of our state have expressed a range of concerns about matters directly and indirectly affecting them and

Whereas, among those concerns is a strong sense that GMP should not recover in future rates the windfall proceeds now due CVPS ratepayers, as currently proposed in the MOU, and

Whereas, there is disagreement among the general public as to the best mechanism for returning the $21 million in windfall proceeds to CVPS ratepayers and …

Whereas, many residential ratepayers have expressed the view that their interests have not been thoroughly considered and have not been memorialized in the MOU…”

As Poirier said earlier today, “things are coming to a head.”

In new radio ads, anti-single payer group targets Poirier, Woodward

A pair of new radio ads commissioned by the state’s leading anti-single-payer group will target by name two representatives on the House Committee on Health Care.

The 57-second spot, airing on four central Vermont stations, asks Reps. Paul Poirier and Mark Woodward to support legislation that would force the Shumlin administration to release a financing plan for its single-payer plan before this November.

The ad, paid for by Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, marks the latest attempt by Republicans to expose Peter Shumlin to the political liabilities inherent in establishing any new public-financing mechanism. Continue reading