Utah Cap Haps Blog

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Week Five Review

Capitol Pic of the Day


The town halls have been a way to get involved and stay up to speed about the happenings on Capitol Hill. Last Saturday was a the fifth town hall of the session. There will be one more on March 19th where I will provide a post session update of the 2016 general session. It will be held at 2:00pm at the WVC Family Fitness Center.


The long anticipated Medicaid expansion proposals are now surfacing. There are several bills that take a variety of different approaches to addressing the issue of health care access. Some of the variables that make this issue complicated include funding, federal waivers that must be approved by the federal government, and maximizing the amount of people to be covered. Each proposal will have pros and cons related to these areas. Below is a summary of a few of bills that are garnering the most attention.

SB 77, Medicaid Expansion Proposal in line with the Affordable Care Act, is designed to allow everyone who is eligible, coverage and access to the health care that they need. It also gives the governor the power to go to Washington to negotiate on behalf of the state for medicaid. The difficulty lies in how to fund this. This bill was heard in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday, February 23rd. It passed out of committee with a favorable recommendation (vote: 5-1-1), and is now on the senate second reading calendar. To listen to the full committee discussion, click here.    

HB 302, Utah Medicaid Amendments expands the existing Medicaid program to individuals who are below the 138% of the federal poverty level. This bill would apply to those who are medically frail, whether or not they have employer sponsored insurance. It provides a funding mechanism for Medicaid expansion and creates the Medicaid Expansion Fund, made up of electronic smoking device taxes, savings attributable to expansion, grants, gifts, donation, private funding, and state appropriations. This bill is currently being held in the rules committee, waiting for a standing committee assignment.        

HB 411, Utah Medicaid Reform Amendments amends the existing state Medicaid program to allow for a partial expansion under certain conditions. This bill states that the department can receive approval for a waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services between January 1, 2017-July 1, 2017. This waiver would allow for implementation of Medicaid expansion in the state. This includes: expanding Medicaid coverage to an individual who is below 100% of the federal poverty line, obtaining maximum federal financial participation, reimbursing providers based on Medicare rates, and including a work requirement for able-bodied adults. With this waiver, it also allows the state to adjust the specific benefits. This bill is currently in the house rules committee and is waiting to be assigned to a house standing committee.    

HB 437, Health Care Revisions is a similar to last year's Utah Cares proposal with the 70/30 federal/state match, however, the hospitals would share the 30% state share. It seeks a federal waiver and provides a funding mechanism for the waiver program. This bill seeks to target individuals whom are homeless, transitioning out of jails, or have substance abuse and mental health issues. Coverage would apply to adults with no kids in extreme poverty, as well as the adults with children that fall in 40% to 55% of poverty. The plan provides budget certainty by adjusting the designated income level in subsequent budget years according to state appropriations. It also provides rapid re-activiation for previously eligible enrollees who are exiting incarceration. This bill will be heard in the House Business and Labor Committee Monday, Feb. 29th. Click here for agenda.

Another topic that is generating a lot of interest are the two bills that call for a constitutional amendment. HJR 8, Joint Resolution Calling for a Convention to Amend the Constitution of the United States, pertains to the targeted issues of 1) fiscal restraints on the federal government, 2) limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and 3) limiting the terms of office for members of Congress. HJR 16, Joint Resolution Rescinding the Call for a Constitutional Convention rescinds past applications made by the State of Utah to Congress for a constitutional convention.


HB 289 s1, Charter School Closure Amendments passed out of the house with 66 yes votes, zero no votes, nine absent. It is now headed to the senate to be heard in the education committee.    

HB 351, Attorney General Fiscal Amendments was heard in the House Government Operations Committee on Tuesday, February 23rd. It passed out with eight yes votes and zero no votes. It is currently on the house third reading calendar and will be voted on at the beginning of next week.

HB 397, Department of Administrative Services was sent to the House Government Operations committee and will be heard on Monday morning at 8:00 AM in House room 30.  Here is a link to the agenda with more information.

SB 56, Nurse Practice Act passed out of the senate on Monday, February 22nd with 27 yes votes, zero no votes, two absent.  It was then sent to the house education committee and is waiting to be put on an agenda.


Salt Lake County Caucus

This week, the Salt Lake County Caucus discussed the topic of Health Care and listened to the various proposals in this area. Below is a summary of some of the bills we discussed.

HB 323 Continuing Care Retirement Community Amendments: This bill outlines the structure of continuing care retirement communities (CCRC). These facilities have different sections such as memory care facilities, retirement homes, and assisted living centers.  There is a $200,000-$300,000 entrance fee as well as monthly payments of about $2500. When a person leaves the community and another individual fills their spot, they may receive almost all of their entrance cost money back. Take a look at the map of the number of CCRC’s across the country. This bill is currently on the house third reading calendar and should be heard early next week.  

SCR 11 Concurrent Resolution Urging the Rescheduling of Marijuana: In 1970 congress passed the Controlled Substance Abuse Act, which also formed the DEA and the five schedules of drugs.  Under current law, it is a felony to do research on Schedule One drugs, such as cannabis. This resolution is urging congress to change to scheduling of cannabis to a Schedule Two drug so that we can do research legally. The University of Utah medical schools and other research institutions are ready to begin research as soon as the scheduling changes. There are already plans in place on how to conduct the research. This bill passed out of the Senate and is now in the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.
In 2011 there was a measles outbreak at a certain area of a Utah school district. This small outbreak ended up costing the health department about $200,000. Last summer, the Legislature put together a working group, which consisted of pediatricians, nurses, and school officials.  Lately there has been an increase in the number of unimmunized kids. This bill seeks to address a public safety concern, while honoring parents who do not want to immunize their kids. For parents who opt out, there is a requirement to watch a 20 minute online video. The purpose of the video is to teach parents how to protect their children if there is an outbreak. This includes taking the child out of school and quarantining them for up to three weeks. The intent of the bill is not to increase the number of immunized kids, but rather it is to teach parents and kids about what to do if there is an outbreak. This bill is currently on the house third reading calendar.    
HB 308 Disease Prevention and Substance Abuse Reduction Amendments: Opioid abuse has become a nation wide epidemic. This bill amends the Utah Health Code to authorize the operation of syringe exchange programs in the state. This bill does not encourage substance abuse; instead it gives those who are already addicted safe ways to make more informed decisions. Those who are already addicted tend to use a needle more than once, which leads to Hepatitis C and AIDS which is a substantial cost within Utah's existing Medicaid program. When an addict comes in to exchange needles, they are given an educational pamphlet and verbally informed about disease information and treatment options. The goal of this program is to reduce disease and get people into treatment. This bill has the potential to save our Medicaid budget millions of dollars. There is no fiscal note on this bill because numerous nonprofits have volunteered to fund this program.


This week in the transportation committee, we reviewed SB 64, Special Group License Plate Amendments.  This bill creates the National Professional Men’s Soccer Team Support of Building Communities license plate. These license plates support a program that strengthens youth soccer, builds communities, and promotes environmental sustainability.  This special license plate would require applicants to make a $25 annual donation to the National Professional Men’s Soccer Team Support of Building Communities Restricted Account.  This account is funded by these said contributions, private contributions, and donations or grants from public or private entities.  This bill passed out of the senate and is currently on the house time certain calendar.  If this bill passes, it has an effective date of October 1, 2016.

To listen to other bills heard in my assigned committees, click on the interested committee below:

House Transportation Standing Committee


We received updated revenue estimates and learned that we have even less General Fund dollars than we had estimated last December. There was a slight growth in Education Fund, however. This means the legislature should be able to accommodate more education-related needs, and will struggle to meet needs that requested General Fund dollars.

Something to keep in mind is that student growth alone is in the budgetary range of $58M, and one percent of the WPU is approximately $27M. If you'd like to get a better sense of the state budget and how the money is spent, take a look at this link.

We will begin ranking budget items next week and expect the Executive Appropriations Committee to meet soon.


On Friday, February 26th, Speaker Hughes presented SCR 13, Concurrent Resolution Honoring Randy Horiuchi. Randy Horiuchi was an institution in Salt Lake County government.  Randy spent 22 years on the Salt Lake County Council and he also served as chairman of the Utah Democratic Party. His love and enthusiasm for politics was contagious and his public service will forever be marked by his passion and unending optimism. Many legislators shared their heartfelt memories of Randy, and his family was presented a citation in recognition of his service.

Over the past few weeks, we've heard presentations from members of our federal delegation. Here is a summary from a couple of our congressional delegation.
Congresswoman Mia Love made her annual address to the Utah Legislature on Monday, February 22. During her visit, she described how the Utah Constitution is helping guide her policymaking endeavors in the U.S. House of Representatives. During her speech to the Utah House, she thanked legislators for a good, common-sense approach to legislation by limiting bills to one subject at a time as Utah lawmakers do. She acknowledged how difficult it is to implement that approach in Congress. Rep. Love went on to say, “it takes a lot of courage to do what you do. It takes a lot of courage to be able to stand on your own and make something happen. I admire you…you have been an example to me.” The Utah House of Representatives appreciates Congresswoman Love’s time and kind words. Click here to watch her remarks (begins at 12 mins).

On Friday February 19, Congressman Jason Chaffetz made his annual report to the Utah Legislature. During his visit he addressed the medical marijuana debate, saying he would like to remove federal prohibitions on the medical use of cannabidiol, an extract believed to fight against seizures that is low in the hallucinogenic chemical, THC. Rep. Chaffetz voiced his concerns related to recreational use and said he hopes to be able to provide more clarity from the federal perspective and allow for a legally transparent way that those who have a medical need for treatment can get it. Click here to watch his remarks (begins at 19 mins).

On Fridays of each week, we've had visitors from the education community, from UEA to the PTA. It's been great to visit with our educators and parent volunteers. I had the privilege of recognizing Mrs. Debbie Gatrell who teaches Social Studies at Hunter High. She recently earned her National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification and was recognized on the House floor for her achievement.

Visiting with the PTA, discussing education
I also had the opportunity to visit with members of the PTA and visited with a few constituents from the district.