COVID-19, Issues, Legislation/Bills

Advice and Consent of the Senate

One of the duties of the Senate is to provide advice and consent to the Governor on appointments to important executive positions, boards, and commissions. As the Governor makes appointments, Senate Committees review appointee’s records and resumes, question them during committee hearings, and/or meet with them informally to assess their qualifications for the position to which they’ve been appointed. Committees then make recommendations to the full Senate before a formal vote to accept or reject the Governor’s appointment.

Unlike the many of the recent federal hearings for Supreme Court Justices or cabinet positions, most Vermont appointment reviews are relaxed and non-partisan. In our small state, many of the appointees are well-known and respected, and nearly all of them are dedicated public servants and volunteers who welcome the opportunity to contribute to the good of our state. Only occasionally does the Senate vote to reject a gubernatorial appointee, and most are unanimously approved with little debate.

Although the process is generally low-key, Senators take their responsibility seriously and I always find it interesting and informative to meet with appointees to learn about how they approach their work for the state. Today I had the honor of recommending to the full Senate the reappointment of two of Governor Scott’s appointees on behalf of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee: Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine, MD and Green Mountain Care Board member Dr. Jessica Holmes, PhD.

There is nobody in our state who deserves more credit for keeping Vermonters safe during the COVID-19 pandemic than Dr. Mark Levine. The Senate voted to approve his reappointment on a unanimous role call vote. I was thrilled to have the chance to recommend his reappointment to my colleagues as I have a huge amount of gratitude and respect for Dr. Levine and public health officials around the country who have worked endless hours to try to keep people safe during the pandemic. I was also delighted to recommend for reappointment my friend and constituent Jessica Holmes, whom I met nearly 20 years ago at a Middlebury College picnic, both of us with toddlers in tow. Below are the reports I gave for each of them respectively today on the virtual Senate floor.

Dr. Mark Levine, Commissioner of Health

Dr. Mark Levine is being considered for reappointment as the Vermont Commissioner of Health. Dr. Levine was first appointed Commissioner of Health by Governor Scott in March 2017. Little did he know when accepting the position that he would become our state’s calming voice of public health and safety during a global pandemic, steering Vermont through a traumatic public emergency with skill and empathy. It’s fair to say that nobody in our state has worked harder to keep the People of Vermont safe and healthy over the past 14 months than Dr. Mark Levine. As Vermont begins to re-emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, with one of the best public health records in the country, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Levine.

Prior to his appointment he was a Professor of Medicine at the University of Vermont, and most recently the Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education and Designated Institutional Official at the College of Medicine and the UVM Medical Center. Dr. Levine has a B.A. in Biology from the University of Connecticut and an M.D. from the University of Rochester. He completed his Internal Medicine Residency and a Chief Resident year at the University of Vermont and a fellowship in general internal medicine at the University of North Carolina, which emphasized clinical epidemiology, research training, teaching, and administration of educational programs.

Dr. Levine has a reputation as an outstanding teacher and educational program innovator, receiving teaching awards from the UVM Larner Medical School and the Department of Medicine. He maintains his faculty appointment and continues to actively teach. Prior to becoming Commissioner, Levine practiced general internal medicine with special interests in solving complex diagnostic dilemmas, health promotion and disease prevention, and screening and clinical nutrition.

Throughout the past year, I, like many of my colleagues, have been in close contact with Dr. Levine and his staff, asking questions and sharing concerns and ideas from constituents. I have often pushed Dr. Levine and his team on issues of particular importance to me or my constituents, especially related to childcare, schools, and colleges; health and safety protocols; and vaccine rollouts. I have not always agreed with Dr. Levine, and I have made that clear publicly on several occasions. But even during the height of what must have been an incredibly stressful year, he has always responded with the utmost professionalism and respect.

Your Health and Welfare Committee voted 5-0-0 in favor of the reappointment of Dr. Mark Levine as Commissioner of Health and we ask you to do the same. We hope his reappointment is approved and that he’s afforded time for a long and restful vacation very soon.

Dr. Jessica Holmes, Green Mountain Care Board Member

Dr. Jessica Holmes is being considered for reappointment to her second six-year term as a member of the Green Mountain Care Board, Vermont’s health care regulatory board. A health care economist, Dr. Holmes specializes in data and systems analysis with the goal of achieving a sustainable, efficient, and effective health care system for patients and providers.

Dr. Holmes is a tenured Professor of Economics at Middlebury College where she teaches courses in health economics and policy, microeconomics, the economics of social issues, and the economics of sin. She has received the Gladstone Award and the Marjorie Lamberti Faculty Appreciation Award, both honoring excellence in teaching. Dr. Holmes has published economic research in numerous peer-reviewed journals and currently serves as the co-director of the American Economic Association’s mentoring workshops for women faculty. She has also been appointed by the Foreign Minister of Mexico to serve as an Honorary Consul to Mexico for Vermont. Dr. Holmes earned a PhD in Economics from Yale University and an A.B. in Economics from Colgate University. 

She is an avid swimmer and many early mornings can be found at the pool with the Middlebury Muffintops Swim Club, training for the U.S. Master’s Ultramarathon Open Water Nationals. On a personal note, I have known Jessica for most of her twenty years in Middlebury, each of us raising three kids of similar ages. Over the past two decades, we’ve spent time together at toddler birthday parties, playgrounds and sports fields, and school and College events. Jessica is pragmatic and creative, and always willing to help others understand complex issues and solve tough challenges. We’re lucky to have her skills, knowledge, and optimistic outlook serving our state.

Your Health and Welfare Committee voted 5-0-0 in favor of the reappointment of Dr. Jessica Holmes to the Green Mountain Care Board and we ask you to do the same.

Note: The image above was borrowed from the VT Department of Health Vision Statement, found here: