Category: Press Release

New House Member Sworn in

Press Release
For Immediate Release
February 14, 2018

 

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

New House Member Sworn in

Salt Lake City – Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes administered the Oath of Office to the newest member of Utah House of Representatives, Rep. Travis Seegmiller on February 14, 2018.

“We’re excited to welcome Representative Seegmiller to the House,” said Speaker Hughes. “His experience in law, finance and public policy will serve him well as he jumps into his new legislative role.”

Rep. Seegmiller was selected in a special election to replace the vacant seat in House District 62. He will be assigned to House Business and Labor Committee, House Government Operations Committee and Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to represent the good people of District 62,” said Rep. Seegmiller.

Seegmiller is an associate professor of law, economics and management at Dixie State University. He has worked on presidential political campaigns and public policy issues since 1996, including service as a strategy staffer for Mitt Romney and as a Judiciary Committee staffer to Senator Orrin Hatch. He also worked as management strategy consultant and attorney in the areas of finance, investment, law and policy. After completing his undergraduate degree with departmental distinction at Yale University, Rep. Seegmiller received his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, graduating cum laude from both universities.

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Trauma-Informed Legislative Workgroup

Press Release
For Immediate Release
January 18, 2018

Standing Up for Trauma Victims in a Bipartisan Manner

SALT LAKE CITY – Representative Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan) and Senator Luz Escamilla (D-Salt Lake) announced their proposed bipartisan legislation, H.B. 177 Trauma-Informed Justice Provisions, that would enable and assist victims of crime, during the Trauma Informed Justice Solutions panel discussion on January 16, 2018. The mission of the workgroup is to eradicate re-traumatization of victims in Utah by establishing trauma-informed systems that are sensitive to and aware of the needs of victims.

“A traumatized person thinks differently than they did before,” said Jenny Livsey, crime survivor, and advocate. “The criminal justice system is a foreign place. My role as a victim is to survive, and I need someone to show me how.”

Under the current system, the workgroup says victims are often re-traumatized by their experiences with the criminal justice system. The workgroup is calling for a process that understands traumatized victims and carefully assists individuals seeking help.

“H.B. 177 is the first step in moving our state to trauma-informed practices that will help improve survivors’ experiences,” said Sen. Escamilla.

The goals of this proposed legislation include:

  • Reduced the likelihood of re-victimization, leading to less accumulative adverse childhood experiences, less behavioral risk-taking, fewer negative health impacts, and reduce state spending on healthcare
  • Increase the likelihood that victims will engage with the Criminal Justice System in the future by supporting a more positive experience, which in turn enables improved healing and coping skills by connecting victims with available resources

“I have learned from my constituents over the years that the way we treat traumatized victims matters tremendously for the effective, efficient and respectful administration of criminal justice,” said Rep. Ivory. “We can do a better job system-wide to protect the important role victims have in our criminal justice system.”

H.B. 177 will establish a Multi-Disciplinary Trauma-Informed Committee tasked with creating a trauma-informed justice program. The committee will conduct a study of current and

recommended trauma-informed policies, procedures, programs and practices in Utah’s criminal and juvenile justice system including:

  • The role of victim advocates and victim services in the criminal and juvenile justice system
  • How to implement the option of a comprehensive, seamless victim-advocate system that:
    • Is based on the best interests of victims
    • Assists victims throughout the criminal and juvenile justice system
    • Assist with the progress of recovering from trauma experienced as a result of being a victim of crime

“Victims are tasked with navigating a system for which they are simply not prepared to navigate,” said Amy Coombs, Masters in Social Work, Certified Social Work Manager. “The best way to evaluate how we operate systems of service in the criminal justice system is to ask crime victims/survivors for feedback. We should listen attentively to this feedback, and then react accordingly.”

“Many resources have been dedicated to worthy efforts such as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative and other efforts to enhance trauma-informed justice,” said Turner Bitton, Executive Director UCASA. “However, that process has often focused on offenders and not victims. This legislation is a critical first step in resolving that disparity and expanding the opportunities for victims of sexual assault. We are pleased to support this great legislation.”

Members of the workgroup include the Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice (CCJJ); The Utah Office for Victims of Crime (UOVC); The Office on Domestic and Sexual Violence; the Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA); Turner Bitton, executive director at UCASA; Amy Coombs, M.S.W, CSWM; Jenny Livsey, crime victim/survivor; Rhiannon Livsey, crime victim/survivor; Donna Kelly, deputy district attorney, Salt Lake City; and Gary Scheller, director of the UOVC.

Sen. Escamilla and Rep. Ivory will continue to work on this bipartisan issue to pass legislation that will meet the expressed needs of survivors of crime victims, such as Jenny Livsey and her family, during the 2018 General Session.

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Contacts:
Aundrea Peterson
Utah House of Representatives
801-791-3365 | aundreapeterson@le.utah.gov

Jon Hennington
Utah Senate
jhennington@le.utah.gov

 

 

Aiming to decrease prescription drug prices

Press Release
For Immediate Release
January 11, 2018

 

SALT LAKE CITY – Prescription drug prices have been on the rise, leaving some concerned how they will afford to refill their prescription. Representative Norm Thurston is sponsoring a bill, H.B. 163 Prescription Drug Importation Program, during the 2018 General Session, which aims to help alleviate some of the cost of prescription drugs for Utah residents by implementing a state-run prescription drug importation program that will create a safe, cost-effective, wholesale import for a select group of prescriptions.

On average, the price of prescription drugs in Canada is 30 percent less than in the United States. The legislation is designed to save Utahns a significant amount of money on their prescriptions, and it includes standards to ensure that the savings go directly into the pockets of Utahns.

“The United States is one of the largest, most loyal purchasers of prescription drugs, though, we are paying much more than other major purchasers,” said Thurston. “We need to take initiative to lower prescription drug costs for life-saving medicine. Utah is more than capable to administer a well-run state importation program.”

The U.S. drug market heavily relies on importation to supply the U.S. market. Currently:

  • 80 percent of raw ingredients for drugs made in the United States are imported from China and other countries;
  • 40 percent of finished drugs used in the United States are manufactured in other countries;
  • The S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had a cooperative agreement addressing drug regulatory matters with Canada for years, more than 30 Canadian drug manufacturers are FDA-registered to produce drugs for U.S. markets; and
  • About 20 percent of drugs licensed for the Canadian market are made in the United States.

“Rising pharmaceutical costs continue to be the most volatile part of the state budget in providing healthcare to its employees,” said Chet Loftis, managing director of PEHP Health & Benefits. “We deeply appreciate the opportunity to work with Rep. Thurston on H.B. 163, and policymakers in general, in lending our expertise on matters of public importance and actively exploring ways to reduce healthcare costs to the state.”

The safety and purity of the imported prescriptions is a crucial standard in the bill. The bill complies with federal regulations governing drug importation that require guarantees of drug safety and consumer savings. In addition, the legislation requires federal approval from the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The legislation will safeguard the quality and safety of imported drugs by:

  • Contracting with licensed, regulated drug wholesalers and distributors in Utah and Canada;
  • Importing only drugs licensed for sale in Canada;
  • Testing imported products for purity on a sample basis if needed; and
  • Limiting distribution of imported drugs to only Utah.

The legislation will deliver significant consumer savings by:

  • Monitoring market competition among Utah wholesalers;
  • Ensuring that consumers pay similar prices to those charged in Canada; and
  • Widely publicizing the prices of the imported products so consumers know what they can expect to pay.

Thurston assembled a working group of stakeholders, including state agencies, commercial health plans, pharmacists and community clinics in early 2017 to outline how a wholesale importation program should operate in Utah.

The bill is modeled after legislation developed by the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), a nonpartisan group that works closely with state policymakers to develop state legislative and regulatory strategies to rein in pharmaceutical costs.

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

Utah State Legislature Launches Redesigned Website

In anticipation of the 2018 General Session, the Utah State Legislature is excited to launch the newly redesigned version of the legislative website, le.utah.gov. The site helps Utahns connect and interact with their legislators. Utah residents can learn about proposed and past legislation and hear committees and floor debates.

With the growing use of smartphones and tablets, the new mobile-friendly site is more accessible to most users. Features of the site include a cleaner aesthetic design, a more engaging user experience and enhanced search and navigation functions. The new design also streamlines the site’s familiar main menu, providing a clear navigation and a responsive layout for all platforms.

“The redesign aims to simplify access to the Legislature, helping to improve communication and make information about the legislative process easily accessible to all,” said President Wayne Niederhauser. “A visually appealing and user-friendly legislative website is paramount to keeping legislators accountable to the people of Utah.”

Key components of the new site:

  • Mobile Friendly Design – offers responsive user experience that allows site visitors to navigate information easily on various platforms;
  • Find Your Legislator – helps users identify who represents them as well as who represents the area in which they are currently located – based on the current location of their device, an address look-up or a map;
  • Innovative Search Tool – integrates formerly separate search functions into a single interface, allowing users to more easily find legislation, Utah Code, budget information, audits and much more.

“The purpose was not only to update the look of the site but also to make finding information easier and more convenient,” said Speaker Greg Hughes. “In a world where communication is increasingly digitized, we want to provide a convenient path to useful information on mobile platforms for Utahns. I appreciate the hard work put in by many legislative employees to complete this project.”

The goal of this website redesign is to facilitate citizen involvement in the legislative process by enhancing the user experience. The site contains valuable easy to navigate information, allowing for greater engagement and encouraging further exploration.

We encourage all residents to go to le.utah.gov and see the exciting changes for themselves. Please submit questions, observations and concerns in the comment box on the website. Feedback is important to us as we continue to strive to develop a website that is valuable to Utahns.

 

State leaders announce forecast of FY 2019 revenue numbers  

Press Release
For Immediate Release
December 12, 2017

State leaders announce forecast of FY 2019 revenue numbers  

SALT LAKE CITY –  Consensus revenue figures indicate Utah’s prosperous and diverse economy is generating additional revenue for the state. The consensus revenue forecast shows a supplementary $101 million of one-time funds and $382 million in new ongoing appropriations for the upcoming FY 2019 budget. That’s an increase from the amounts available at this time last year, which were $1 million one-time and $283 million ongoing.

“Utah’s continued economic growth provides the revenues that will allow the State of Utah to make critical investments in our long-term future, including education,” said Governor Gary Herbert.

“A reliable state budget depends on a reasonable, conservative budget forecast,” said Senate President Wayne Niederhauser. “These consensus figures are encouraging and good news for our economy, but we must continue to be conservative when examining the entire budget to ensure we find the correct fiscal balance.”

“This revenue and economic forecast illustrates that Utah’s economy continues to thrive,” said Speaker Greg Hughes. “While these numbers are encouraging, we must continue our measured approach as we put together the state budget that addresses critical needs of this great state. We have some of the best legislative economists in the nation and I appreciate the hours they spent working on this forecast.” 

The Office of Legislative Fiscal Analyst presented the consensus forecast on Tuesday, November 12, 2017, to the Executive Appropriations Committee. The office also presented a comprehensive review of revenue volatility and a trend analysis. It recommended using $67 million ongoing and $85 million one-time from the new revenue to pay existing obligations.

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Speaker Hughes Announces Changes to House Majority Leadership

Press Release
For Immediate Release
December 7, 2017

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

Speaker Hughes Announces Changes to House Majority Leadership

Salt Lake City – With the pending resignation of Rep. Dean Sanpei, Speaker Greg Hughes has appointed Rep. Brad Last, to serve as the House chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee and Rep. Mike Schultz to serve as House vice-chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee, effective immediately.

“While we will greatly miss Rep. Sanpei, Rep. Last is ready, willing and able to lead our executive appropriations committee, and I’m excited to work closely with him in this new position,” said Speaker Hughes. “Rep. Schultz has proven to be a natural leader with a strong understanding of the legislative process and will be a great addition to our leadership team. I’m confident that both representatives will serve the House well and I look forward to working with them in their new respective roles.”

The changes to the leadership team come after Rep. Dean Sanpei announced his resignation from the Utah House of Representatives after accepting a career position out of state.

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Rep. Dean Sanpei to resign from Utah House

Press Release
For Immediate Release
December 1, 2017

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

Rep. Dean Sanpei to resign from Utah House

Salt Lake City – Representative Dean Sanpei, current House chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee and vice president of strategy for Intermountain Healthcare, will resign from the Utah House of Representatives on December 8, 2017. Sanpei has accepted a position with Centura Health as senior vice president and chief strategy officer, which will require him to relocate to Colorado.

“On behalf of the Utah House of Representatives, we want to thank Rep. Sanpei for his years of service and leadership,” said Speaker Greg Hughes. “He will be hard to replace. Utah’s national recognition for being a well-managed state, and economically strong, are in large part due to his efforts. While we will greatly miss his friendship and leadership, we wish him and his family the very best as they venture out on this new journey.”

During his time in the Legislature, Rep. Sanpei has proven to be an expert on very complex issues including budgets, taxes and healthcare. Rep. Sanpei currently serves as House chair of the Executive Appropriations Committee and is a member of the Government Operations Committee and Health Reform Task Force.

“It has been an honor to serve in the Utah House during such a significant period of economic recovery and growth,” said Rep. Sanpei. “I am proud to have worked with remarkable colleagues, and I’m grateful to the constituents who entrusted me to represent them.”

Rep. Sanpei was appointed to the Utah House of Representatives in June 2010 to fill the remaining term of Rep. Stephen Clark and was elected by his district that November. Since then he has served on the Executive Appropriations Committee, Health and Human Services Interim Committee, Health Reform Task Force, Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, House Health and Human Services Committee, House Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Committee, Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee, Education Interim Committee, House Education Committee, House Rules Committee, House Transportation Committee, Legislative Policy Summit, Government Operations Interim Committee, House Government Operations Committee, Legislative Site Visit, Transportation Interim Committee, Point of the Mountain Development Commission, and Economic Development Legislative Liaison Committee.

The Utah County Republican Party will now establish a process for choosing a replacement to be submitted to Governor Herbert for appointment.

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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.

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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.

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Read the letter here.

Watch the press conference here.

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.

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