Business groups urge veto of medical monitoring bill

By LISA RATHKEMarketsAssociated Press

Vermont business groups urged Republican Gov. Phil Scott on Friday to veto a bill intended to make it easier for people exposed to toxic substances to get their medical monitoring costs covered by the company that released the substances.

The business groups take issue with the criteria that would make a company liable and say it should be consistent with 16 other states that have established medical monitoring through their courts. They also raised concerns that insurance for medical monitoring would be very expensive or not available.

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"This will increase operational risks and costs for a wide range of Vermont employers, and make Vermont an outlier even compared to states that have recognized this as a remedy for plaintiffs," about 40 business-related groups said in letter to the governor.

At a Statehouse news conference, some groups asked that the administration, Legislature and business community work on new legislation and said they are not opposed to medical monitoring but want it to be consistent with that in other states.

"We've got many concerns about the bill particularly in its current form that it could have a chilling effect on the ability to create jobs and attract business and new industry to Vermont," said Bill Moore, president and CEO of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.

Scott has until Monday to act on the bill. He has not said what he will do.

The legislation was prompted by the discovery of toxic chemicals found around two former ChemFab factories in the Bennington area and medical monitoring done on residents.

"It really comes down to who pays, and they don't want to be held accountable," said Bennington Democratic Sen. Richard Sears of the business groups. Sears, a co-sponsor of the bill, said he wasn't surprised at the call for a veto since the Legislature had heard the business concerns and amended part of the legislation.

"I think it's a good bill, I think it's fair. I realize that they want to make it more difficult for somebody to get the medical monitoring they need paid for," he said.