Category: Press

Speaker Hughes statement on the nomination of Dr. Harris to serve as U.S. Marshal for the District of Utah

For Immediate Release
November 17, 2017

Contact:
Aundrea Peterson
House Majority Communications Director
Utah House of Representatives
aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Speaker Hughes statement on the nomination of Dr. Matthew Harris to serve as U.S. Marshal for the District of Utah

SALT LAKE CITY –  Speaker Greg Hughes issued the following statement following President Trump’s announcement to nominate Dr. Matthew D. Harris to serve as the United States Marshal for the District of Utah:

“Dr. Matthew Harris is an excellent choice to serve as U.S. Marshal for the District of Utah. He has advised me on various law enforcement issues as well as public policy recommendations related to waste fraud and abuse. He is highly qualified to serve in this role.

“I appreciate President Trump’s selection of a topnotch expert to serve in our great state and Senator Orrin Hatch for his influence and confidence in recommending Dr. Harris for this important position. I look forward to working closely with him in his new capacity.”

Dr. Harris, formerly of Utah, is currently an Assistant Special Agent in Charge with the United States Postal Service, Office of Inspector General. Dr. Harris previously served as a Senior Special Agent and Assistant Director for criminal investigations at the United States Government Accountability Office. Dr. Harris served in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in Salt Lake City from 2000 to 2006 and in the New York State Office of Inspector General from 1999 to 2000.

His federal law enforcement career began in 1997 with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Since 2003, he has been an Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice at Salt Lake Community College.

Dr. Harris holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from Northcentral University, a Master of Public Administration from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration and Criminal Justice from Kutztown University.

Notes:
The White House press release can be found here: President Donald J. Trump Announces Ninth Wave of United States Attorney Nominations and Third Wave of United States Marshal Nominations

###

 

Speaker Hughes Educating Counties about Options to Confront Big Pharma

Press Release
For Immediate Release
November 16, 2017

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

Speaker Hughes Educating Counties about Options to Confront Big Pharma
Uniting to combat the opioid crisis

ST. GEORGE, UT– Speaker Greg Hughes and DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge for Utah Brian Besser are attending the Utah Association of Counties annual conference in St. George to discuss the opioid epidemic impacting every county in our state.

Speaker Hughes will be focused on informing county leaders and stakeholders about their options to pursue litigation against big drug manufacturers. He will encourage them to follow the lead of Salt Lake County and Utah County leaders who just this week announced they would be initiating litigation to hold accountable those responsible for this crisis.

The opioid crisis that is sweeping this country is affecting every community across our state. The facts are staggering, in Utah 4 out of 5 people addicted to heroin started through prescribed opioid pain medication.

“We must take this fight to those who have profited by making blatantly false claims that have adversely affected Utahns lives,” said Speaker Hughes. “Utah has an important and unique story that needs to be shared. Now is the time to act.”

Drug manufactures knowingly made deceptive claims while marketing their products to physicians and the public, such as, “Opioids are rarely addictive if taken long term.” Resulting in the United States consuming 99 percent of opioid products even though our country only makes up 5 percent of the world population.

Every county in this state needs to join together to fight this public health epidemic.

###

 

Press Release: Feds approve Utah’s Medicaid waiver

Press Release
For Immediate Release
Nov. 1, 2017

Feds approve Utah’s Medicaid waiver

SALT LAKE CITY (Nov. 1, 2017) – The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced its approval of a 2016 request from the state of Utah to expand Medicaid services to 4,000 – 6,000 Utah adults without dependent children. The approval also includes authority to use federal funds to provide residential substance abuse treatment services to Medicaid recipients.

This limited expansion of Medicaid is a critical element of Operation Rio Grande, as many of the newly eligible recipients will be members of the homeless population. Phase two of the operation focuses on bringing additional treatment beds into the system to support individuals in recovery. The waiver approval will encourage treatment centers to begin offering services for Medicaid members. In anticipation of this waiver approval, multiple centers are planning to add roughly 180 beds within the next year.

“We are excited to announce approval of Utah’s waiver that will expand access to Substance Use Disorder treatment,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.  “I applaud Gov. Herbert for taking this critical step to address the opioid crisis and look forward to continuing to support the Utah in their efforts.”

The program will begin enrolling newly eligible members immediately.

“I’ve always said that the federal government should give states the flexibility to innovate in how they operate their Medicaid programs,” explained Gov. Gary R. Herbert. “Nobody knows how to address the unique challenges we face as a state better than we do. Today’s announcement allows us to address the specific challenge of extending health care coverage — including substance abuse and mental health services — to the homeless population. I commend the Trump administration for approving our waiver request, and look forward to providing these critical services.”

“The approval of this waiver is significant for the most vulnerable people in our communities,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “It will empower more effective solutions to help those experiencing poverty and homelessness. I appreciate the current administration for recognizing the merits of our objectives.”

In order to be eligible, individuals may not earn more than five percent of the federal poverty level and must be “chronically” homeless or involved in the justice system through probation, parole, or court-ordered substance abuse or mental health treatment.

Historically, substance abuse treatment through Medicaid was limited to facilities with 16 beds or fewer. Under the waiver, the bed capacity limit will be lifted allowing more treatment centers the ability to provide care to Medicaid members with substance use disorders.

“We appreciate the Trump administration’s effort to approve these waivers based on our requested timeline,” said Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes. “In all our conversations, they have recognized our needs and the importance of this critical step to help the neediest in our society. These waivers will help further our execution of Operation Rio Grande and the implementation of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. I’m proud of the unprecedented partnerships we have formed through our multi-jurisdictional effort and look forward to our continued collaboration and success in changing people’s lives by giving them a hand up.”

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) submitted the waiver for CMS consideration on July 1, 2016. Elements of the request were outlined in legislation sponsored by Rep. Jim Dunnigan and passed during the 2016 legislative session.

“After working on this issue for the past several years, I’m excited for CMS to have finally signed off on our plan,” said Rep. Dunnigan. “This was a bipartisan effort, and there was broad support for the legislation that lead us here today. I look forward to continuing to work with all the parties involved to now implement this important program.”

This waiver approval does not include the proposed amendments that were submitted to CMS in August 2017 which included a work requirement and limitation on eligible months of coverage. The Utah Department of Health will continue to work with CMS to obtain authorization for these additional flexibilities in order to ensure expansion efforts are sustainable.

# # #

Read the letter here.

Watch the press conference here.

Media Advisory: State leaders to discuss Medicaid waiver with media

MEDIA ADVISORY

State leaders to discuss Medicaid waiver with media

What: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced its approval of a 2016 request from the state of Utah to expand Medicaid services to 4,000 – 6,000 Utah adults without dependent children. The approval also includes authority to use federal funds to provide residential substance abuse treatment services to Medicaid recipients.

This limited expansion of Medicaid is a critical element of Operation Rio Grande, as many of the newly eligible recipients will be members of the homeless population. Phase two of the operation focuses on bringing additional treatment beds into the system to support individuals in recovery. The waiver approval will encourage treatment centers to begin offering services for Medicaid members.

State leaders will provide brief remarks on the approval and take questions from credentialed members of the media.

Who:
Gov. Gary R. Herbert
Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox
President Wayne Niederhauser
Speaker Greg Hughes
Representative James A. Dunnigan
Mayor Ben McAdams
Utah Department of Health
Utah Department of Workforce Services
Representatives from Odyssey House
Representatives from First Step House

When:
Wed., Nov. 1, 2017, at 11:05 a.m.

Where:
Utah Capitol, Gold Room
350 N. State Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114

# # #

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.

###

 

 

Press Release: Assessing Utah’s Occupational Licensing Policies and Practices

Press Release
For Immediate Release
September 28, 2017

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

Assessing Utah’s Occupational Licensing Policies and Practices

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah has been selected to participate in the National Occupational Licensing Learning Consortium. The Consortium objective is to find solutions that will enhance portability of occupational licenses and remove overly broad or restrictive existing and new licensing requirements.

In the last 60 years, jobs that require an occupational license, or government approval to practice a profession, has drastically increased from about one in 20 to more than one in four.

Utah’s participation in the Consortium will continue the state’s effort to understand issues revolving around occupational licensure; improve familiarity and discuss existing licensing policies within the state; identify current policies that create unnecessary barriers to labor market entry; and create an action plan that focuses on removing barriers to labor market entry to improve portability and reciprocity for certain occupations.

“This national effort aligns well with Utah’s on-going efforts to streamline regulation of local businesses,” said Sen. Todd Weiler.

During the two-year study, the state will select four to five specific occupational licensures to review.

“It is encouraging to see occupational licensing reform receiving such increased bipartisan support nationally and in Utah,” said Rep. Brian Greene. “Wherever unnecessarily burdensome regulations exist, they should be identified and modified to accomplish government’s proper role in this arena – to address legitimate public health and safety concerns.”

The purpose of occupational licensing is to protect consumers health and safety by requiring practitioners possess a certain level of competency within a particular field. However, the extensive amount of regulations can create disparities across states that results in unreasonable barriers for individuals to enter a labor market. Additionally, it makes relocating difficult. For instance—military spouses and families, immigrants with work authorization and unemployed and dislocated workers—are especially affected by the requirements and variances of occupational licensing.

The Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel applied on behalf of the Legislature to participate in the two-year occupational licensing project. The submission process included submitting a five-part narrative, state objectives, research previously completed and letters of support from various government entities. The Legislature, Governor’s Office, Utah Department of Commerce and Department of Workforce Services will represent Utah.

Occupational Licensing: Assessing State Policy and Practice is hosted by the Council of State Governments, National Conference of State Legislatures, and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, with support from the U.S. Department of Labor.

###

 

 

Press Release: Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee pass motion requesting courts hold off implementing new policy

Press Release
For Immediate Release
September 22, 2017

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

Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee pass motion requesting courts hold off implementing new policy

SALT LAKE CITY – Upon review of the House Interim Rules, the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel (LRGC) has determined that a motion voted upon by the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Interim Committee on Wednesday, calling upon Utah’s Courts to delay implementation of using Public Safety Assessment tools, did actually pass.

Representative Paul Ray expressed concern during the committee meeting and made a motion requesting that the courts wait to make such a major policy change until the Legislature would have time to review it. Rep. Ray’s motion passed the House by a majority vote and tied in the Senate, 2-2. Initially, the LRGC ruled that the motion had failed.

In January, the Utah Judicial Council approved use of a bail-alternative process which establishes a public-safety assessment (PSA) score based on an algorithm. Under the new rule, judges are permitted to determine to use the PSA score instead of using the probable cause statements that are filed by the arresting officer when deciding if a suspect should be released.

It is scheduled to go into effect on Nov. 13, 2017, although the Utah Legislature won’t have had a chance to review this policy change prior to the next general session in January 2018.

“Courts should come to the legislature when considering a drastic policy change,” said Rep. Ray. “The court’s authority is to ensure the law is being upheld not create new laws that could have an adverse effect on our community without public hearings and debate.”

Article VIII, Section 4 of the Utah Constitution states, “The Legislature may amend the Rules of Procedure and Evidence adopted by the Supreme Court upon a vote of two-thirds of all members of both houses of the Legislature.”

A PSA score is a computer-generated scoring system created by the Texas-based foundation of billionaire John Arnold and his wife Laura. The foundation advocates for criminal justice reform and other social issues and provides its PSA tool to any jurisdictions that request it. Nine risk factors are plugged into it, including criminal history, age, current charges and past charges. The tool then creates a score for a judge to consider.

The foundation says the algorithm generates gender-and-race-neutral “evidence-based data” on which defendants should be released before trial offering judges “reliable, predictive information about the risk that a defendant released before trial will engage in violence, commit a new crime, or fail to return to court.” Judicial systems in two states and 29 counties — including Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Phoenix — are using the Arnold Foundation PSA scoring tool.

The algorithm has generated plenty of controversy in the wake of its implementation, however, most recently in San Francisco, where opponents are blaming it for the murder of a professional film and TV scout during a petty robbery. The PSA tool recommended that one of the man’s two assailants was a candidate for pretrial release despite his being a convicted felon and a two-time parole violator, who had also been arrested for gun possession only five days prior to the killing.

###

 

Media Advisory: Naturalization Ceremony to be held at the Utah State Capitol

Media Advisory
For Immediate Release
September 22, 2017 

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

Naturalization Ceremony to be held at the Utah State Capitol

Salt Lake City – Representative Norm Thurston, in partnership with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), will host a naturalization ceremony at 10 a.m. Monday, September 25 at the Utah State Capitol.

The keynote speaker, Eldin Diglisic, will share his experience of becoming a U.S. citizen. Rep. Norm Thurston will serve as master of ceremonies. Laura McNeer, field office director for USCIS, will administer the Oath of Allegiance.

Carla Swensen-Haslam will perform the U.S. National Anthem. A video welcome message from President Donald J. Trump.

Following the ceremony, on-site voter registration will be available for new the U.S. citizens.  

Who:  
Rep. Norm Thurston, District 64
Eldin Diglisic
Laura McNeer, USCIS Field Office Director

What:
U.S. Naturalization Ceremony

Where:
Utah State Capitol ­– Rotunda
350 State St., Salt Lake City, UT 84111

When:
Monday, September 25, 2017, at 10 a.m.

Notes:
New citizens will be available for interviews immediately following the ceremony. When photographing someone with their certificate, have the person cover up their number (top right) to protect their privacy.

 ###

 

Media Advisory: Senate President and House Speaker to hold media availability

Media Advisory
For Immediate Release
September 20, 2017

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

Senate President and House Speaker to hold media availability

What:
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and House Speaker Greg Hughes will host media access to comment on the first special session of the 62nd Legislature.

Who:
Senate President Wayne Niederhauser
House Speaker Greg Hughes
Members of House and Senate Leadership

When:
Wednesday, September 20, 2017 – 20 minutes following the end of the special session

Where:
Office of the Senate President
Utah State Capitol
320 State St., Salt Lake City, UT 84111

###