The following is a brief wrap-up of the disposition of SB 981, An Act Concerning Medical Assistants. As you know, the bill was passed out of the Senate on the consent calendar (unanimously), but ultimately was not called for a vote on the House floor. The bill faced heavy opposition from nurses, including Rep. Theresa Conroy, who is a nurse by profession and sits on the Public Health Committee. Rep. Peggy Sayers, who has been outspoken on this issue, was willing to work with us on amending and passing a bill, but received opposition from her own party under pressure from the nursing community.
Rep. Sayers amendment included an additional 8 hours of training and restricting infants under 18 months from the bill. . Evidently Rep. Sayers and Sen. Terry Gerratana had previously had this conversation, but Sen. Gerratana neglected to put this provision in the bill when it passed the Senate, presumably because she expected the bill would not be called in its current version. If the bill was called and amended on the House floor, it would then need to be sent back up to the Senate to adopt the House amendment. Toward the end of session, time becomes a factor and only bills that are priorities of leadership or of individual members or committee chairs are called in the House.
The bill was tabled for House action on 5/21—with only 8 House session days left. Many Representatives from towns who have a heavy nurse presence were also reluctant to take a vote on the bill and the bill was viewed as a “talker.” If a bill is a talker and not a priority of leadership in the last week of session, it is virtually certain it will not be called.
During the process, education centers that train MA/AMT's came forward in support of the bill, but unfortunately to late to help with the grassroots push. In the future, this group needs to be focused much earlier in the process to create volume that can compete with the nurses. We also need to focus more on the number of employees this will cover and some information on carrier ladders, to the extent that it is relevant.
Unfortunately, when session begins in February, the entire process must start over. However, the momentum from this year will be very helpful. In the next legislative session we are hopeful that we can address concerns of opponents in the committee process so the bill will not need to be amended on the floor. We also received commitments from leadership to work more closely on the bill next session. We are also hopeful the bill will move out of committee quicker so there will be more time to act on it before the last few days of session.
Personally, I feel that passage of a new law allowing MA's and AMT's to administer vaccines will happen. It will take more work and perseverance, but it will happen.
CSMA Lobbyist Jim Paolino