Month: October 2017

Opioid Epidemic

 In the words of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is experiencing an opioid-induced “public health epidemic.”

In 2014, Utah ranked 4th in the nation for drug overdose deaths – an average of 6 people a week die in Utah die as a result of overdosing on prescription opioids. Last week, Speaker Greg Hughes made it clear that he would like the State of Utah to attack the opioid epidemic by litigating directly against those involved with these often harmful products. Within the last year, more than 25 states, counties and cities have filed civil suits against manufacturers, distributors and large drugstore chains. The Speaker believes that Utah can better tell its own story without joining a multi-state effort. We have unique issues and damages and will have a more impactful outcome by addressing this on our own.

For example, in 2013, the State of Utah settled a lawsuit with a large manufacturer for $8.5 million based on allegations that the drug manufacturer defrauded the state’s Medicaid program through allegedly false and misleading marketing. A multi-state collective settled the claims of 37 states and the District of Columbia for a total of $90 million. The average settlement in that effort resulted in $2.37 million per state. By going at it on our own, Utah received of three and a half times the amount of an individual state in the collective.

In 2009, the State of Utah settled a lawsuit with another large manufacturer for $24 million based on allegations that the drug manufacturer concealed its knowledge of significant side effects associated with a particular drug. A multi-state collective settled the claims of 32 states and the District of Columbia for a total of $62 million. The average settlement in that effort resulted in $1.88 million per state. By going at it on our own, Utah received nearly 13 times the amount of an individual state in the collective.

Speaker Hughes and members of the Utah Legislature will continue working on solutions address tragic epidemic.

In the News:

Doug Wright Show – Speaker Hughes wants UT to file lawsuit against Big Pharma

KSL News – Top name on Capitol Hill wants to take legal action against Utah opioid epidemic

Salt Lake Tribune: Get those dirty needles off the street

Deseret News: Trump’s announcement decrying opioid ‘public health emergency’ welcomed in Utah

Fox 13 News: Utah best state for federal opioid money, House Speaker Hughes says

Good 4 Utah: As state tackles opioid crisis, some call for legal action

Deseret News: The untold story of how Utah doctors and Big Pharma helped drive the national opioid epidemic

Media Advisory -Weber County considering making county commissioners part-time

Media Advisory
For Immediate Release
October 25, 2017

Contact:
                                 Aundrea Peterson
Majority Director of Communications
801-791-3365 | aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Weber County considering making county commissioners part-time
Elected officials set-forth petition to change local form of government

 Salt Lake City – Local elected officials to discuss a petition to study a new form of government in Weber County. It will include considering making Weber County commissioners part-time and increasing members to adequately represent the growing county.

Weber County has 250,000 citizens that are represented at the state level by 10 representatives and senators, locally by 76 city or town council members and 15 mayors. However, only three commissioners serve the same 250,000 citizens that have vastly diverse situations and challenges.

The purpose of the petition is to examine if a change in the form of government at the county level would be beneficial to Weber County citizens and better align with the increase in population in the area. Voters have the opportunity to decide if this is the correct path at this time.

The proposal to review a possible change in government is founded on the separation of powers and principles of representation with the growth of the county. It is not to condemn current or past commissioners.

Who:  
Rep. Gage Froerer, District 8 (northeastern Weber County)
Senator Ann Millner, District 18
Weber County Commissioner Kerry Gibson
North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor

What:
Elected officials to discuss a petition to study a change in the form of government in Weber County.

Where:
Comfort Suites
2250 S 1200 W., Ogden, UT 84401

When:
Thursday, October 26, 2017, at noon.

Notes:
The petition was filed with the Weber County Clerk/Auditor’s Office Friday, October 20, 2017: In accordance with to the provisions of Utah Code 17-52-203 the undersigned Petitioners do hereby, “Initiate the process of adopting an optional plan,” for changing the form of Weber County government via petition of, “Registered voters of a county,” and do signal our intent to begin collecting additional signatures via petition for that purpose.

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Winter Olympics

It has been 15 years since Salt Lake City hosted the Olympics, arguably the most successful Olympic Winter Games ever. Utah’s legacy is still vibrant and is benefiting economically from hosting the Games. Since 2002, Utah has hosted numerous world championship events in winter sports in the Salt Lake Valley and Park City.

Utah presence in the worldwide sports community continues to expand. For instance, more than 40 percent of the U.S. Olympic Team’s athletes that competed in Vancouver in 2010 either live or spend a significant amount of time training in Utah.

The Olympic/Paralympic Exploratory Committee (OEC) announced it would explore the possibility of submitting a bid to host the 2026 or 2030 Winter Olympic Games on October 19, 2017. Speaker of the House Greg Hughes and Senate President Wayne Niederhauser are key members of this committee.

Utah’s world-class facilities, venues and infrastructure would only need minimal updates. Additionally, our international airport, transportation system and lodging have expanded since the 2002 Games. Making Utah an ideal host for the Winter Olympics.

However, before proceeding the exploratory committee will thoroughly examine budgets, marketing, potential revenue streams and the overall impact on the state to factor whether it is of the state’s best interest to submit Salt Lake City’s name as a potential bidder.

Utah’s Economy

Utah’s economy is healthy and thriving. In FY 2017, individual income tax was up about 7.1 percent compared to the previous year; income tax revenue reached its all-time high for the fifth year in a row collecting $1.86 billion in sale tax; and the State’s Education Fund is on a healthy growth path increasing 4.1 percent in FY 2017.

The Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee (EAC) received a revenue update during the October meeting. The State of Utah’s General and Education Fund collected $47 million more than projected for FY 2017, which ended June 30. After statutorily required reserve account deposits, aka the rainy-day fund, the General Fund balance is $8 million and available Education Fund balance is $18 million.

The Legislative Fiscal Analyst staff predicts the economy will continue to increase this upcoming year.

Legal Opinion

Earlier this year, several serious questions regarding separation of powers and the role of the Executive Branch arose after the Governor overstepped his constitutional duty and set the time, place and manner of a special election to replace Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

The Legislature requested a legal opinion from the Attorney General regarding the process to fill a vacancy when a Utah Congressperson resigns.

The opinion was completed, signed and ready to be delivered. But the Governor’s Office urged the Attorney General to not release the opinion claiming a conflict existed due to an attorney-client relationship, though, according to Section 67-5-1 (7) Utah Code: “The attorney general shall: (7) give his opinion in writing and without fee to the Legislature … when required, upon any question of law relating to their respective offices[.]”

On several occasions, the Legislature requested the legal opinion completed earlier this year be provided by the Attorney General and several media outlets requested the document be released under the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA). The Attorney General’s Office denied those requests.

The Salt Lake Tribune appealed their denial to the State Records Committee, and that committee voted in favor of the Tribune getting access to the opinion. The Attorney General’s Office is now deciding whether to appeal the records committee ruling.

On Wednesday, October 18, the Legislative Management Committee unanimously passed a motion to “authorize legislative legal counsel to initiate litigation, as necessary, to obtain the requested legal opinion from the attorney general and to address any other legal issues that could arise or have arisen from that request.”

The Legislature believes that the Attorney General is required by law to provide the Legislature the legal opinion. The Legislative Management is seeking clarity as to the role of the Attorney General and whether court rules pertaining to attorney-client privilege exist, and if those rules trump the statute that has been defined in law directing the Attorney General to give the Legislature an opinion. Having this clarity will help to avoid similar situations in the future should they arise. Obtaining the legal opinion will be useful to have when drafting and considering legislation to establish a process for filling potential Congressional vacancies during the upcoming session.

Listen to the entire committee here.

Additional information:

Separation of Powers and Constitutional Concerns

Legislative Leaders Issue Statement on Separation of Powers

Two-Month Update on Operation Rio Grande

On Wednesday, October 18, 2017, Speaker Greg Hughes, Senator Wayne Niederhauser, Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox, Commissioner Keith Squires, Chief Mike Brown and homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson held a news conference to provide a two-month update about Operation Rio Grande (ORG).

Before ORG, many individuals who needed help found themselves in danger due to the lawlessness the existed in the Rio Grande district. Crimes were occurring on a regular basis.  However, because of ORG, the district is safer, law and order are being restored and services continue. During the news conference, homeless advocate Pamela Atkinson mentioned services provided in the area from entities like The Road Home and Catholic Community Services of Utah have not decreased since ORG began. Rather, individuals now feel safer, and those who are seeking assistance has increased

Salt Lake City Police Department Chief Mike Brown mentioned that ORG offers an opportunity for those experiencing homelessness, mentally ill and even criminals to connect with the available resources. Additionally, Part 1 crimes are down 24 percent, and Part 2 crimes are down 58 percent in the Rio Grande area.

Most business owners, employees who work downtown, volunteers at shelters and residents of the area are thankful for the collaboration of resources that are committed to addressing the public safety concerns in the area.

Since the launch of the operation, 61 new treatment beds, and 15 detox beds have become available. Nearly 900 coordinated services cards have been distributed, making it easier on those seeking help to connect with appropriate services.

According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, nine search warrants directly connected to intelligence gathered through ORG have been served that has led to 40 individuals arrested.

Additional information about the Dignity of Work phase of the operation is scheduled to be announced in November. It will include supportive services for individuals not ready for permanent employment to participate in pre-employment activities such as volunteerism, internships, training, workshops, skill development, and mentorships. As well as a work program to help those who have completed the “work-ready evaluation” and are ready for employment.

Operation Rio Grande is an on-going effort. There will be ups and downs. However, we must all remain diligent to overcome obstacles that arise over the next two years and committed to seeing this through to rid the area of criminal activity.

Watch the entire news conference here.

Watch the entire news conference to get a full an update on Operation Rio Grande here.

This infographic shows the successes and key items in progress.

October 2017 Legislative Calendar

Stay in the know about what is happening at the Utah House of Representatives.  Here is a list of October’s meetings. Click the committee to see the agenda, meeting materials and listen to live and past audio* of meetings.

Monday, October 2
9:00 a.m. Administrative Rules Review Committee

Wednesday, October 4
10:30 a.m. Revenue and Taxation Interim Committee

Thursday, October 5
8:00 a.m.  Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force
3:00 p.m.  Property Tax Working Group of the Utah Tax Review Commission

Wednesday, October 11
1:00 p.m. Health Reform Task Force
3:00 p.m. Sales Tax Working Group of the Utah Tax Review Commission

Tuesday, October 17
1:00 p.m. Subcommittee on Oversight
1:30 p.m. Legislative Management Committee
2:00 p.m. Executive Appropriations Committee
3:00 p.m. Legislative Water Development Commission
4:00 p.m. Legislative Audit Subcommittee 

Wednesday, October 18
8:30 a.m. Business, Economic Development, and Labor Appropriations Subcommittee
8:30 a.m. Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee
8:30 a.m. Public Education Appropriations Subcommittee
8:30 a.m. Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee
1:15 p.m. 
Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee
1:15 p.m. Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee
1:15 p.m. Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee
1:15 p.m. Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee
2:10 p.m. Executive Offices and Criminal Justice Appropriations Subcommittee
5:00 p.m. Legislative Management Committee

Thursday, October 19
8:30 a.m. Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands

Monday, October 23
8:00 a.m.  Transportation Governance and Funding Task Force
1:00 p.m. Income Tax Working Group of the Utah Tax Review Commission

Tuesday, October 24
9:00 a.m. Veterans’ and Military Affairs Commission

Thursday, October 26
2:30 p.m. Sales Tax Working Group of the Utah Tax Review Commission

Monday, October 30
9:00 a.m. Administrative Rules Review Committee

Tuesday, October 31
9:00 a.m. Child Welfare Legislative Oversight Panel

*Not all meetings are streamed online.