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Journal of the Senate

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Senate was called to order by the President.

Devotional Exercises

Devotional exercises were conducted by the Reverend Terry Dorsett of Barre.

Message from the House No. 41

     A message was received from the House of Representatives by Ms. Wrask, its Second Assistant Clerk, as follows:

Mr. President:

     I am directed to inform the Senate the House has passed bills of the following titles:

     H. 170.  An act relating to retirees of the University of Vermont.

     H. 615.  An act relating to juvenile judicial proceedings.

     H. 635.  An act relating to reports of child abuse or neglect.

In the passage of which the concurrence of the Senate is requested.

The House has considered a joint resolution originating in the Senate of the following title:

J.R.S. 57.  Joint resolution requesting the Agency of Administration to post all state contracts and grants in full text on the internet.

And has adopted the same in concurrence.

Bills Referred

House bills of the following titles were severally read the first time and referred:

H. 170.

An act relating to An act relating to retirees of the University of Vermont.

To the Committee on Government Operations.

H. 615.

An act relating to juvenile judicial proceedings.

To the Committee on Judiciary.

H. 635.

An act relating to reports of child abuse or neglect.

To the Committee on Health and Welfare.

Joint Resolution Adopted on the Part of the Senate

Joint Senate resolution of the following title was offered, read and adopted on the part of the Senate, and is as follows:

   By Senator Shumlin,

     J.R.S. 59.  Joint resolution relating to weekend adjournment.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:

That when the two Houses adjourn on Friday, March 28, 2008, it be to meet again no later than Tuesday, April 1, 2008.

Rules Suspended; Committee Relieved of Further Consideration; Bills Committed

S. 341.

On motion of Senator Kitchel, the rules were suspended, and S. 341was taken up for immediate consideration, for the purpose of relieving the Committee on Appropriations from further consideration of the bill. Thereupon, on motion of Senator Kitchel, the Committee on Appropriations was relieved of Senate bill entitled:

An act relating to the registration of pet merchants,

and the bill was committed to the Committee on Judiciary.

H. 859.

On motion of Senator Sears, the rules were suspended, and H. 859 was taken up for immediate consideration, for the purpose of relieving the Committee on Institutions from further consideration of the bill. Thereupon, on motion of Senator Sears, the Committee on Institutions was relieved of House bill entitled:

An act relating to increasing substance abuse treatment, vocational training, and transitional housing for offenders in order to reduce recidivism, increase public safety, and reduce corrections costs,

and the bill was committed to the Committee on Judiciary.

Thereupon, on motion of Senator Sears, the rules were suspended and the bill was referred to the Committee on Appropriations with the report of the Committee on Judiciary, intact.


Consideration Postponed

Senate bills entitled:

S. 348.

An act relating to education or workforce training for children between the ages of 16 to 18 years of age.

S. 201.

An act relating to state employee whistleblower protection.

Were taken up.

Thereupon, without objection consideration of the bills was postponed until the next legislative day.

Bills Passed

Senate bills of the following titles were severally read the third time and passed:

S. 229.

An act relating to access to public records.

S. 275.

An act relating to motor vehicles passing bicyclists on highways.

Bills Passed in Concurrence

House bills of the following titles were severally read the third time and passed in concurrence:

H. 557.

An act relating to postponing the sunset of the fish and wildlife board’s authority to adopt rules regulating the deer herd.

H. 788.

An act relating to awarding moose permits to Vermont veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Joint Resolution Adopted in Concurrence

J.R.H. 56.

Joint House resolution entitled:

Joint resolution relating to honoring municipal public works employees and designating May 18-24 as public works week in Vermont.

Having been placed on the Calendar for action, was taken up and adopted in concurrence.

Bills Passed

Senate bills of the following titles were severally read the third time and passed:

S. 297.

An act relating to clarifying the definition of “stiff hitch” in the motor vehicle statues.

S. 344.

An act relating to internet and mail order sales of tobacco products.

Bill Passed

Senate bill of the following title:

S. 372.

An act relating to evictions, unpaid rent, and abandoned property in rental property.

Was taken up.

Thereupon, the bill was read the third time and passed on a roll call, Yeas 28, Nays 0.

Senator Condos having demanded the yeas and nays, they were taken and are as follows:

Roll Call

Those Senators who voted in the affirmative were: Ayer, Bartlett, Campbell, Carris, Condos, Coppenrath, Cummings, Doyle, Giard, Hartwell, Illuzzi, Kitchel, Kittell, Lyons, MacDonald, Maynard, Mazza, McCormack, Miller, Mullin, Nitka, Racine, Scott, Sears, Shumlin, Snelling, Starr, White.

Those Senators who voted in the negative were: None.

Those Senators absent and not voting were: Collins, Flanagan.

Bill Amended; Bill Passed

S. 345

Senate bill entitled:

An act relating to lowering the cost of workers’ compensation insurance.

Was taken up.

Thereupon, pending third reading of the bill, Senator Racine moved to amend the bill as follows:

First:  In Sec. 5, by striking out the following: “included” and inserting in lieu thereof the following: considered for inclusion

Second:  In Sec. 6, by striking out the following: “included” and inserting in lieu thereof the following: considered for inclusion

Third:  In Sec. 16, by striking out the following: “included” and inserting in lieu thereof the following: considered for inclusion

Which was agreed to.

Thereupon, pending third reading of the bill, Senator Mullin move to amend the bill by adding a new Sec. 17 to read as follows:

Sec. 17.  21 V.S.A. §660(a) is amended to read:

(a) A notice given under the provisions of this chapter shall not be held invalid or insufficient by reason of any inaccuracy in stating the time, place, nature, or cause of the injury, or otherwise, unless it is shown that the employer was in fact misled to the injury as a result of the inaccuracy. Want of or delay in giving notice, or in making a claim, shall not be a bar to proceedings under the provisions of this chapter, if it is shown that the employer, the employer's agent, or representative had knowledge of the accident or that the employer has not been prejudiced by the delay or want of notice. Proceedings to initiate a claim for a work-related injury pursuant to this chapter may not be commenced after three two years from the date of injury. This section shall not be construed to limit subsequent claims for benefits stemming from a timely filed work-related injury claim.

Which was disagreed to on a roll call, Yeas 7, Nays 21.

Senator Mullin having demanded the yeas and nays, they were taken and are as follows:

Roll Call

Those Senators who voted in the affirmative were: Carris, Coppenrath, Maynard, Mazza, Mullin, Scott, Sears.

Those Senators who voted in the negative were: Ayer, Bartlett, Campbell, Condos, Cummings, Doyle, Giard, Hartwell, Illuzzi, Kitchel, Kittell, Lyons, MacDonald, McCormack, Miller, Nitka, Racine, Shumlin, Snelling, Starr, White.

Those Senators absent and not voting were: Collins, Flanagan.


Thereupon, pending third reading of the bill, Senator Illuzzi, moved to amend the bill as follows:

First:  By adding a new section to be numbered Sec. 1 to read as follows:

The General Assembly finds as follows:

  1. The Workers’ Compensation Program was established by the Vermont General Assembly in 1915 to compensate and protect employees who suffer personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment; and, to protect employers by limiting their exposure to lawsuits on the account of injuries arising out of work injuries. Further, the program benefits the general public by reducing reliance on taxpayer funded public assistance.
  2. The National Council on Compensation Insurance is the largest provider of workers’ compensation and employee injury data and statistics in the nation.  In Vermont, NCCI recommends to the state Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration proposed workers’ compensation voluntary market loss costs and assigned market rates by classification codes.
  3. Under the workers’ compenation classification system, insureds are assigned to defined business classifications using the one classification that best describes the routine business of the employer.
  4. Class ratemaking is based on five years of payroll and loss data specific to the class code.  Every year, the oldest year drops off and the newest year of data rolls on.  The 2007 class code calculations were based on the five year period from July 1999 to June 2004; in 2008, from July 2000 to June 2005.
  5. In March 2008, the Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration approved an average 4.2% decrease in voluntary market loss costs, and an average 4.2% decrease in assigned market rates.  The approved decrease in voluntary market loss costs was the largest decrease in a decade, enabling many Vermont employers to enjoy a modest decrease in workers’ compensation premium costs.
  6. The 2008 filing decrease is mainly attributed to a decline in workplace injuries.  Two major cost drivers in the workers’ compensation system are frequency of claims and the seriousness of those claims.  However, medical costs continue to increase more rapidly than the rate of inflation, and the duration of claims continues to be a concern, creating upward pressure on system costs.
  7. While recent years have seen greater stability in workers’ compensation approved loss costs and rates, the comparative cost of workers’ compensation insurance in Vermont remains a issue of great concern to many Vermont employers. 
  8. The deployment of safety training programs and measures by Vermont employers and industry associations has helped to reduce the frequency of workplace injuries, which is the most effective way to reduce workers’ compensation costs.
  9. Although workplaces are safer in Vermont than in the past, the state still experiences a higher number of workplace injuries than many other states.  Higher injury and illness rates is one of many factors that present challenges to keeping workers’ compensation costs stable.
  10. Many important sectors of the Vermont economy – including sawmills, carpenters, loggers, hospital professionals, restaurants and ski areas – should experience modest decreases in workers’ compensation premium costs in light of the approved loss costs reductions.
  11. Vermont’s residual market share of 8.5% validates that worker’ compensation insurers perceive the Vermont Workers’ Compensation Program to be working effectively.  The residual market is less than half the size it was 5 years ago, meaning an increasing number of employers are able to find appropriate coverage in the voluntary market.  This allows those employers to benefit from competition between carriers in the voluntary market.  However, in certain industries – such as dairy farms – the lack of competition between carriers remains an issue of concern.
  12. Some Vermont employers with no or relatively few records of injuries are expected to enjoy premium rate reductions in excess of the recommendations proposed by NCCI.

Agriculture – Dairy Farmers

  1. Workers’ compensation costs for dairy farms remains an issue of great concern to the State of Vermont. 
  2. Farming is inherently more hazardous than many, but not all, trades and professions.  And the pool of farmers to spread the risk is substantially smaller.  Looking at specific farming class codes, it is the farmers dealing with "hoofed animals" that seem to have the higher incidents, as compared to vegetable farmers and others in the agriculture sector.

  3. Rates for Class Code 0036 are increasing on average because of the frequency of claims, the extent of those claims (serious injuries and deaths), and because the risk is shared between fewer and fewer farmers as the number of dairy farmers have decreased. 
  4. In 2007, there were two dairy farm worker deaths.  Those claims are not reflected in the 2008 proposed rates.
  5. It is important to enhance and implement farm safety training programs. 
  6. The Vermont Farm Bureau, the state Agency of Agriculture, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the UVM Extension Service, and other entities are working to develop enhanced farm safety training programs.   

Second:  By renumbering the remaining sections of the bill to be numerically correct.

Which was agreed to.

Thereupon, the bill was read the third time and passed on a roll call, Yeas 28, Nays 0.

Senator Mullin having demanded the yeas and nays, they were taken and are as follows:

Roll Call

Those Senators who voted in the affirmative were: Ayer, Bartlett, Campbell, Carris, Condos, Coppenrath, Cummings, Doyle, Giard, Hartwell, Illuzzi, Kitchel, Kittell, Lyons, MacDonald, Maynard, Mazza, McCormack, Miller, Mullin, Nitka, Racine, Scott, Sears, Shumlin, Snelling, Starr, White.

Those Senators who voted in the negative were: None.

Those Senators absent and not voting were: Collins, Flanagan.

Bills Amended; Bills Passed

S. 311.

Senate bill entitled:

An act relating to current use enrollment for conservation lands and ecologically significant lands.

Was taken up.

     Thereupon, pending third reading of the bill, Senator Illuzzi moved to amend the bill by striking out Sec. 10 in its entirety and inserting in lieu thereof a new Sec. 10 to read as follows:

Sec. 10.  ONE-TIME CURRENT USE PARCEL FEE

     The department of taxes shall assess a one-time fee of $25.00 on each parcel enrolled on April 1, 2009, in the use value appraisal program established under chapter 124 of Title 32.  The fee shall be due on or before June 1, 2009, and shall be deposited into the program special fund created pursuant to 32 V.S.A. § 3756(e) for improvements to the program.  If the fee is not paid by June 1, 2009, there shall be an additional $10.00 per month late fee, which shall accrue at the beginning of each subsequent month. Each parcel on which all or a portion of the one-time fee and late fees remain unpaid on June 1, 2010, shall be sent a notice of discontinuance, and the parcel shall be withdrawn from the program effective for the 2011 tax year and reinstated for subsequent tax years if in compliance with the requirements of the program.

Which was agreed to on a division of the Senate Yeas 23, Nays 5.

Thereupon, pending the question, Shall the bill be read a third time?, Senator Illuzzi moved to amend the bill by adding a new section to the bill to be numbered Sec. 9a to read as follows:

Sec. 9a.  32 V.S.A. §3760 (a) is amended to read:

(a)(1)  Annually the state shall pay to each town municipality the amount necessary to limit its tax rate increase in the prior year due to the loss of municipal property tax revenue for that year based on use value of enrolled property as compared to municipal property tax revenue for that year based on fair market value of enrolled property, to zero.

     (2)  The director of property valuation and review shall determine the amount of the available funds under this section to be paid to each town municipality, and a town municipality may appeal the director's decision in the same manner and under the same procedures as an appeal from a decision of a board of civil authority, as set forth in subchapter 2 of chapter 131 of this title.

     (3)  On November 1 of each year, the director of property valuation and review shall pay to each municipality the amount calculated as described in this section. If the appropriation for the year is insufficient to pay the full amount due to every town municipality under this subsection, payments in that year shall be made to such towns proportionately.

     (4)  If the appropriation for the year is insufficient to pay the full amount due to any town for enrolled property owned by another municipality, the town in which the property is located may assess the other municipality and the other municipality shall pay the difference.

     (5)  The director's calculation of payment amounts to municipalities shall be based on grand list values and total tax appropriations as submitted to the director for the prior year.

Which was greed to.

Thereupon, the bill was read the third time and passed on a roll call, Yeas 23, Nays 5.

Senator Mullin having demanded the yeas and nays, they were taken and are as follows:

Roll Call

Those Senators who voted in the affirmative were: Ayer, Bartlett, Campbell, Carris, Condos, Coppenrath, Cummings, Doyle, Hartwell, Illuzzi, Kitchel, Kittell, Lyons, MacDonald, Maynard, Mazza, Miller, Racine, Scott, Sears, Shumlin, Snelling, White.

Those Senators who voted in the negative were: Giard, McCormack, Mullin, Nitka, Starr.

Those Senators absent and not voting were: Collins, Flanagan.

Rules Suspended; Bills Messaged

On motion of Senator Shumlin, the rules were suspended, and the following bills were ordered messaged to the House forthwith:

S. 229, S. 275, S. 311, S. 344, S. 345, S. 372, H. 557 and H. 788.

Adjournment

On motion of Senator Shumlin, the Senate adjourned until eleven o’clock and thirty minutes in the morning.

 



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us