As the Shumlin Administration fine tunes its case to lawmakers for a publicly financed health care system, the governor is tapping a familiar name to help make the sale.
Former House Majority Leader Floyd Nease left the Statehouse in 2011. But he’s maintained relationships with many of the lawmakers he served with. And he’ll put them to good use as the latest addition to the team of administration officials spearheading the governor’s single-payer agenda.
“I know the building pretty well. And I have good relationships with people over there. I think I’ll be doing some of that work,” Nease said.
Nease is already a state employee – he’s been helping oversee the delivery of services to vulnerable families. But he’ll temporarily leave his post at the Agency of Human Services, and take up residence at the Agency of Administration on the fifth floor of the Pavilion Building in Montpelier.
Ongoing problems with the exchange have exacerbated legislators’ anxiety over a public financing proposal that will be the biggest tax increase in the history of the state. And while Director of Health Care Reform Robin Lunge and Commissioner of Vermont Health Access Mark Larson have tried to assuage lawmakers’ concerns, they haven’t always succeeded in the task.
A former whip known for his ability to turn votes, Nease has a deep knowledge of the personalities in Statehouse, and brings a tactician’s mind to Shumlin’s political team.
House Speaker Shap Smith and Nease worked closely together on some significant and hard-fought votes, and Smith says he thinks Nease will make an effective ambassador for the administration.
“Floyd has really close relationships with a lot of House members with whom he was a former colleague, and he has an incredible capacity to really listen actively and hear what people’s concerns are,” Smith says.
Smith says his members have serious questions about everything from what benefits the single-payer system will cover, to what taxes will be used to pay for it.
“And I think the great thing about Floyd is he is someone who can have a back-and-forth with legislators and take their concerns and figure out a way to address them,” Smith says.
Nease says he’ll spend the first weeks of his new job getting up to speed on health care reform issues.