Despite the economic downturn, Vermont lawmakers made important gains
in several areas, notably in gay marriage, reducing Rx costs, renewable
energy, transportation, and an economic stimulus package that utilizes
federal stimulus resources.
Vermont lawmakers enacted the nation's strongest measure limiting the drug industry's marketing influence over physicians. The bill, S 48,
bans gifts from the industry to physicians, including meals and travel,
and requires unprecedented disclosure and transparency of relations
between the industry and providers. Said Sharon Treat, Director of the
National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices (NLARx) and Maine State Representative, "Vermont now joins Minnesota and Massachusetts in tackling head-on the pervasive influence of payments and gifts on medical practitioners through a ban on many gifts.
The number of states giving full state marriage rights to same-sex
couples has doubled in under a week as first Iowa and then Vermont
joined Massachusetts and Connecticut in achieving marriage equality.
Additionally, the District of Columbia City Council recently voted to
recognize same-sex marriages conducted in other states.
On Monday, March 23rd, the Vermont Senate overwhelmingly passed (26 to 4) a bill legalizing same-sex marriage,
making the state the first in the nation to take legislative rather
than judicial steps toward granting marriage rights to same-sex
couples. Although House Speaker Shap Smith was confident a majority of
representatives would vote in favor of the "marriage equality" act,
Governor Jim Douglas revealed in a press conference Wednesday that he
would veto the bill, though he did say he would accept a legislative
In a positive step forward for federal respect of state regulatory powers, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider a previously denied waiver to allow California to set more stringent auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards than required by federal law. In a statement by the White House, President Obama said "the federal government must work with, not against, states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions." The directive represents not only greater respect for state authority, but also a sharp break from the climate policies of President Obama's predecessor.
Washington State minimum wage workers got a raise January 1st to $8.55
per hour -- now the highest minimum wage in the country. Like nine
other states, Washington automatically increases its minimum wage each
year at the rate of inflation to make sure families don't face a de facto pay
cut as rising costs eat into family budgets. Because the federal
minimum wage is not indexed to inflation in this way, we have seen a
decline in its value from $9.34 in inflation-adjusted dollars down to
just $6.55 per hour this past year. This trend highlights why state
efforts to index the minimum wage to keep up with inflation are so
Tuesday, New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation law banning the sale of
data on physician prescribing habits to drug industry marketers was upheld
by a federal appeals court. The legislation and subsequent court
ruling dealt a significant blow to the drug industry and its
heavy-handed marketing tactics. The 2006 New Hampshire law,
sponsored by Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, will protect the privacy of
physicians and their patients by banning data-mining - the process by
which the drug industry uses, or mines, the prescribing habits of
providers to inform direct-to-provider marketing. As Rep. Rosenwald stated
in a press release, the "decision unanimously recognizes that States
have the right to protect the prescriber-patient relationship and
patient safety, and to try to reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals.”
Maine and Vermont passed similar laws which have been held up by
litigation, but will now move forward.