MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont Senate negotiators dropped an amendment to bar illegal immigrants from coverage under a new state health care program, delivering a victory Monday evening to human rights activists who had rallied repeatedly at the Statehouse to demand the change.

Instead, the three senators serving on a House-Senate conference committee suggested studying the issues surrounding providing health care to an estimated 1,500 to 2,500 undocumented farmworkers in the state, as well as others in Vermont illegally. Their House counterparts readily agreed to the proposal.

The fight over coverage for illegal immigrants was a late-session storm in otherwise smooth sailing for the centerpiece of Gov. Peter Shumlin's legislative agenda: a publicly financed, universal health care system that had broad support from Shumlin's fellow Democrats who control both houses of the General Assembly.

After the Senate last week adopted the amendment proposed by Sens. Randy Brock, R-Franklin, and Richard Sears, D-Bennington, activists with the Health Care is a Human Right Campaign of the Vermont Workers' Center, who had been providing strong grass-roots support for the health reform measure, turned on the senators.

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