Rep. Pajala on school merger, abortion bills

By Rep. Kelly Pajala

This week’s legislative update is a tough one, as was the week itself.

The first challenge was the vote on H.39, which was about delaying the forced mergers of school districts because of Act 46. I voted in favor of the amendment put forth by Rep. Scheuermann of Stowe because, in my mind, it was the most fair option.

It was clear that a delay was going to be passed for some of the forced merger districts, based on the Conlon amendment being proposed, which made distinctions between different districts’ circumstances rather than a delay for all the mergers in question.

If you are going to allow more time for some, why not for all? Of course the Scheuermann amendment failed and the version of the bill that passed allowed some forced mergers more time to get their ducks in a row and others need to complete their mergers by this July. I voted for the Conlon amendment as well because ultimately the school district merger process needs to be completed. We will never get a sense of the new landscape for Vermont education until the turmoil of the Act 46 process is complete.

The second challenge of the week. Since the session began, the Human Services Committee has spent a large amount of time hearing testimony on H. 57 (An act relating to preserving the right to abortion). All along the way the testimony and surrounding conversation has been emotional and difficult.

Last Wednesday there was a public hearing in the Well of the House Chamber. Both the Human Services and Judiciary committees listened to both pro-life and pro-choice statements. The following day, the Human Services Committee started discussing the language in the bill, and two important changes were made.

To be clear, Vermont does not have any state statutes pertaining to a woman’s right to obtain an abortion, which means the practice in Vermont has been to follow federal law. Precedent set by case law in H.57 as introduced was meant to put what has been the common practice in Vermont into the statutes. It was not meant to expand beyond what is currently federal law.

To clarify that point, a sentence was added to Section 1. Nothing about this act shall be construed to contravene 18 U.S.C. § 1531. This means that H.57 does not legalize partial birth abortion. The second change that was made was the removal of a line in Section 2. (c) A fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus shall not have independent rights under Vermont law. Removing this language means that we would still be relying on federal law and precedent in regards to the rights of a fetus.

I voted to pass H.57 out of committee and will continue to support it, although I expect there will be more changes in the Judiciary Committee. I am hearing from many people on both sides of this issue. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with me. I would ask that you include which town you are from in your communication. We are receiving a lot of emails from out of state and I would much rather hear from the people I represent.

Another issue that I am following closely is the situation at Springfield Hospital. As we all know there was a reduction in force and salary reductions for remaining staff recently. We know that there are more cost saving measures coming but we still don’t know exactly what those will be. I am doing everything I can to be informed and will do my best to share information with the community as it comes out of Springfield.

My biggest concern is for the rural, primary care clinics as they are a vital part of the health of our community. I would encourage everyone to support the entire Springfield Medical Care System, not just the hospital. We need the primary care clinics to remain in our communities, continuing to provide the quality of care that we all value so much.

Feel free to contact me anytime with questions or concerns.

Rep. Pajala is an Independent representing the Windham-Bennington-Windsor District.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: CommentaryOp-ed

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.