Smoking, Childcare Providers, Involuntary Medication Big Topics at Statehouse Thursday

By Steph Machado

Published 02/27 2014 06:53PM

Updated 02/27 2014 07:16PM

MONTPELIER - Just before a week-long break, lawmakers passed a number of bills Thursday.

Involuntary Medication
A controversial bill that passed the Vermont Senate will speed up the process that lets doctors medicate psychiatric patients against their will. State Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham) says getting a judge to approve medicating a committed patient takes too long. If the bill becomes law, two types of patients will be able to request to expedite the hearing process. The first is a patient who has been previously committed and had success with a certain medication, but is refusing to take it.

"That's not to say the judge will grant it," Sen. White explained. "But you can ask for it then. You can also ask for it if the patient shows significant risk of seriously bodily injury to themselves or others." Sen. White says the expedited process could take about 14 days. Doctors still have the right to sedate a patient in an emergency situation.

Childcare Providers
The Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that would give childcare providers the right to unionize, like teachers can.

"We're talking about the people who take care of our youngest children. They on average earn less than $20,000 a year," said State Sen. Richard McCormack (D-Windsor). The bill would allow childcare providers to collectively bargain with the state for better wages. It should be noted that the bill doesn't require the workers to unionize, but allows them the option.

The vote on the second reading was 20-8. The senate will take a final vote on that bill Friday.

Whistleblower Protections
A bill to protect whistleblowers passed on the House floor Thursday. The bill exempts whistleblowers from the public records law so they can remain anonymous. Rep. Joanna Cole says the bill allows people to report misdeeds and fraud in day-to-day government.

Smoking in the Workplace
The House gave its initial approval of a bill that would ban smoking in a variety of places, including businesses where the public has access such as a retail store. It would also ban smoking at hospitals, on public school grounds, within 25 feet of a state office building, and while in a car with a child. That bill will go to a final vote Friday.

Abortion Correction
An outdated Vermont abortion law says that doctors cannot perform the procedure, even though that clearly violates Roe v. Wade. The bill to remove the ancient statute already passed the Senate, and passed the House Thursday. The bill opened the conversation about automatically striking statutes that have been overturned by a Supreme Court ruling. This bill is headed to the Governor's desk.

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