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Senate Calendar

tuesday, may 3, 2005

119th DAY OF BIENNIAL SESSION

TABLE OF CONTENTS

                                                                                                                Page No.

ACTION CALENDAR

CONSIDERATION POSTPONED UNTIL WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2005

Second Reading

Favorable

H. 28      Establishing guidelines for the use of outdoor lighting.......................... 755

                        Natural Resources Committee Report...................................... 755

UNFINISHED BUSINESS OF THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 2005

Second Reading

Favorable with Recommendation of Amendment

S. 98       Voc. rehabilitation & payment under workers compensation.............. 755

                        Ec. Dev., Housing & General Affairs Committee Report.......... .755

                        Finance Committee Report...................................................... 758

NEW BUSINESS

Third Reading

H. 71      Unemployment compensation contribution rate manipulation.............. 759

H. 184    Taking deer damaging crops............................................................. 759

H. 187    Illegal burning of solid waste.............................................................. 759

H. 188    Sale and storage of fuel products containing th additive MTBE........... 759

H. 505    Amending the charter of the city of Burlington.................................... 759

Joint House Resolution for Action

JRH 36  Logger education to advance professionalism training program........... 759

ORDERED TO LIE

S. 117     State recognition of the Abenaki people............................................ 759

S. 157     Relating to rulemaking for Vermont origin.......................................... 760





 

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ACTION CALENDAR

CONSIDERATION POSTPONED UNTIL WEDNESDAY, MAY 4, 2005

Second Reading

Favorable

H. 28

An act relating to establishing guidelines for the use of outdoor lighting.

Reported favorably by Senator Snelling for the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.

(Committee vote: 6-0-0)

(For House amendments, see House Journal for April 12, 2005, page 635; April 13, 2005, page 647).

UNFINISHED BUSINESS OF THURSDAY, APRIL 28, 2005

Second Reading

Favorable with Recommendation of Amendment

S. 98

An act relating to vocational rehabilitation and payment of compensation under workers’ compensation.

Reported favorably with recommendation of amendment by Senator MacDonald for the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs.

The Committee recommends that the bill be amended by striking out all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

* * * Vocational Rehabilitation Rule * * *

Sec. 1.  21 V.S.A. § 641(a) is amended to read:

(a)  When as a result of an injury covered by this chapter, an employee is unable to perform work for which the employee has previous training or experience, the employee shall be entitled to vocational rehabilitation services, including retraining and job placement, as may be reasonably necessary to restore the employee to suitable employment.  Vocational rehabilitation services shall be provided as follows:

* * *

(3)  The commissioner shall adopt rules to assure that a worker who requests services or who has received more than 90 days of continuous temporary total disability benefits is timely and cost-effectively screened for benefits under this section.  The rules shall:

(A)  Provide that all vocational rehabilitation work, including initial screenings, full entitlement assessments, and counseling, shall be performed by a Vermont-certified vocational rehabilitation counselor which shall include those counselors currently certified pursuant to the rules of the department. 

(B)  Provide for an initial screening to determine whether a full assessment is appropriate.  An injured worker who is determined to be eligible for benefits shall have an appropriate initial vocational a full assessment shall be timely assessed and be offered appropriate vocational rehabilitation services. 

(C)  The commissioner shall adopt rules to provide Provide a mechanism for a periodic review and timely screening of injured workers who are initially found not to be ready or eligible for vocational rehabilitation services a full assessment to determine whether a full assessment has become appropriate. 

(D)  Protect against potential conflicts of interest in the assignment and performance of initial screenings.

(E)  Assure the injured worker has a choice of a vocational rehabilitation counselor. 

* * *

(5)  The commissioner may set by rule reasonable reimbursement rates for vocational rehabilitation benefits and services, provided access to vocational rehabilitation services is not diminished and reasonable choices and access to benefits and services are maintained.  The reimbursement shall reflect the current market hourly rate of vocational rehabilitation services as determined by a survey of vocational rehabilitation providers, including solo practitioners, small firms, and large firms.  The fee schedule shall require the individual vocational rehabilitation counselor who provides services to review, initial, and certify the accuracy of the billing.

(6)  The commissioner shall make annual reports to the general assembly on the success and status of the workers’ compensation vocational rehabilitation program.

* * * Discontinuance of Benefits * * *

Sec. 2.  21 V.S.A. § 643a is amended to read:

§ 643a.  DISCONTINUANCE OF BENEFITS

Unless an injured worker has successfully returned to work, an employer shall notify both the commissioner and the employee prior to terminating benefits under either section 642 or section 646 of this title.  The notice of intention to discontinue payments shall be filed on forms prescribed by the commissioner and shall include the date of the proposed discontinuance and the reasons for it.  The liability for the payments shall continue for 7 seven days after the notice is received by the commissioner and the employee.  Those payments shall be made without prejudice to the employer and may be deducted from any amounts due pursuant to section 648 of this title if the commissioner determines that the discontinuance is warranted or if otherwise ordered by the commissioner.  Every notice shall be reviewed by the commissioner to determine the sufficiency of the basis for the proposed discontinuance.  If, upon review, the commissioner finds that the evidence does not reasonably support the proposed discontinuance, the commissioner may shall order that payments continue until a hearing is held and a decision is rendered.

* * * Failure to Pay Benefits * * *

Sec. 3.  21 V.S.A. § 650(e) is amended to read:

(e)  If weekly compensation benefits or weekly accrued benefits are not paid within 21 days after becoming due and payable pursuant to an order of the commissioner, or in cases in which the overdue benefit is not in dispute, ten percent of the overdue amount shall be added and paid to the employee, in addition to interest and any other penalties.  In the case of an initial claim, benefits are due and payable upon entering into an agreement pursuant to subsection 662(a) of this title, upon issuance of an order of the commissioner pursuant to subsection 662(b) of this title, or if the employer has not denied the claim within 21 days after the claim is filed.  Benefits are in dispute if the claimant has been provided actual written notice of the dispute within 21 days of the benefit being due and payable and the evidence reasonably supports the denial.  Interest shall accrue and be paid on benefits that are found to be compensable during the period of nonpayment.  The commissioner shall promptly review requests for payment under this section and shall allow for the recovery of reasonable attorney fees associated with an employee’s successful request for payment under this subsection.

* * * Interim Orders * * *

Sec. 4.  21 V.S.A § 662(b) is amended to read:

(b)  In the absence of an agreement pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, the employer or insurance carrier shall notify the commissioner and the employee in writing that the claim is denied and the reasons therefor.  Upon the employee’s application for a hearing under section 663 of this title, within 60 days, the commissioner may shall review the evidence upon which denial is based and if the evidence does not reasonably support the denial, the commissioner may shall order that payments be made until a hearing is held and a decision is rendered.  Payments pursuant to this subsection shall not be deemed an admission of liability by the employer nor shall such payments preclude subsequent agreement under subsection (a) of this section or prejudice the rights of either party to hearing or appeal under this chapter.

Nothing in this section shall require the commissioner to order payments pending a hearing if the commissioner concludes that the claim is not compensable regardless of the lack of evidence supporting the denial.  For the purposes of this section, any communication by an unrepresented claimant that questions the denial shall be deemed to be an application for hearing under section 663 of this title.

* * * Lump Sum Payment * * *

Sec. 5.  21 V.S.A. § 652(c) is added to read:

(c)  Unless otherwise requested by the claimant, an order for a lump sum payment of permanent partial or permanent total disability benefits or a lump sum settlement of a disputed claim shall include a provision accounting for excludable expenses and prorating the remainder of the lump sum payment in the manner set forth by the Social Security Administration in order to protect the claimant’s entitlement to Social Security benefits.

(Committee vote: 3-2-1)

Reported favorably with recommendation of amendment by Senator MacDonald for the Committee on Finance.

The Committee recommends that the bill be amended as recommended by the Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs with the following amendments thereto:

First:  In Sec. 1, 21 V.S.A. § 641(a)(3) by striking out subdivision (A) and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

(A)  Provide that all vocational rehabilitation work, except for initial screenings, shall be performed by a Vermont-certified vocational rehabilitation counselor including counselors currently certified pursuant to the rules of the department.  Initial screenings shall be performed by an individual with sufficient knowledge or experience to adequately perform the vocational rehabilitation screening functions. 

Second:  In Sec. 4, 21 V.S.A. § 662(b) by striking out the final two sentences and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Nothing in this section shall require the commissioner to order payments pending a hearing if the commissioner concludes that the benefit at issue is not compensable regardless of the lack of evidence supporting the denial.  For the purposes of this section, any written communication by an unrepresented claimant that questions the denial of any benefit shall be deemed to be an application for hearing under section 663 of this title.  

(Committee vote: 4-2-1)

NEW BUSINESS

Third Reading

H. 71

An act relating to unemployment compensation contribution rate manipulation.

H. 184

An act relating to taking deer damaging crops.

H. 187

An act relating to municipal authority to enforce against illegal burning of solid waste.

H. 188

An act relating to prohibiting the sale and storage of fuel products containing the additive MTBE.

H. 505

An act relating to amending the charter of the city of Burlington.

Joint House Resolution for Action

J.R.H. 36

Joint resolution recognizing th outstanding work of the logger education to advance professionalism training program.

(For text of Resolution, see Senate Journal for April 29, 2005, page 515)

ORDERED TO LIE

S. 117

An act relating to state recognition of the Abenaki people.

PENDING ACTION:  Second reading of the bill.

(For text of amendment, see Senate Calendar for April 15, 2005, page 518)

S. 157

An act relating to rulemaking for Vermont origin.

PENDING ACTION:  Second reading  of the bill.

CONFIRMATIONS

     The following appointments will be considered by the Senate, as a group, under suspension of the Rules, as moved by the President pro tempore, for confirmation together and without debate, by consent thereby given by the Senate.  However, upon request of any senator, any appointment may be singled out and acted upon separately by the Senate, with consideration given to the report of the Committee to which the appointment was referred, and with full debate; and further, all appointments for the positions of Secretaries of Agencies, Commissioners of Departments, Judges, Magistrates, and members of the Public Service Board shall be fully and separately acted upon.

Theodore Lindgren of Springfield – Member of the Parole Board – By Sen. Campbell for the Committee on Institutions.  (4/14)

Joseph Acinapura of Brandon – Member of the Parole Board – By Sen. Giard for the Committee on Institutions.  (4/20)

Dean George of Middlebury – Member of the Parole Board – By Sen. Giard for the Committee on Institutions.  (4/20)

Denise Fehr of Shelburne – Commissioner of the Department of Information and Innovation – By Sen. Condos for the Committee on Government Operations.  (4/28)

Denise Fehr of Shelburne – Commissioner of the Department of Information and Innovation – By Sen. Condos for the Committee on Government Operations.  (4/28)

Martin A. Maley, Esq. of Colchester – Magistrate of the Family Court – By Sen. Flanagan for the Committee on Judiciary.  (5/4)

Thomas James Devine of Moretown – District Court Judge – By Sen. Cummings for the Committee on Judiciary.  (5/4)

PUBLIC HEARINGS

Tuesday, May 3, 2005 – Room 11 – 6:00-8:00 P.M. – CUSTOMER SERVICE AND THE VERMONT DEPARTMENT OF TAXES – House Committee on Ways and Means.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005 – Room 11 – 5:00-7:00 P.M. – H. 241 – NO SMOKING IN BARS AND CLUBS – Senate Committee on Health and Welfare.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
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Montpelier, Vermont


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