We have now completed our first week of the 2016 General Session. For those of you who are getting this update for the first time, my prior messages can be found here.
Thank you to all of you who have visited the Capitol or contacted me. When sending an email message, it is always helpful to know the bill number of specific legislation you are concerned about. And, as always, keep in mind that you can access committee meetings, track bills and find other very useful information on the legislative website:http://le.utah.gov/. Also, just a quick reminder – please include your home address on all correspondence and let me know if you need a response or if the email is for information only. I personally read every email, but do not have time to respond to every message.
Dealing with Drug Overdose Deaths
A bipartisan group of legislators led by Representative Carol Spackman Moss held a press conference on Friday to present a number of bills addressing the growing problem of drug overdoses in Utah that could be prevented by the use of Naloxone, a drug that can safely reverse the fatal effects of an opioid overdose. These proposals include HCR 4 – “Concurrent Resolution Declaring Drug Overdose Deaths To Be A Public Health Emergency,” which declares drug overdose deaths a public health emergency and strongly urges Utah’s Departments of Health, Human Services and Public Safety to immediately direct resources to address this crisis. The goal of this legislation, proposed by Rep. Moss, is to save lives by making Naloxone more available to the public. Her companion bill, HB 238, would expand the accessibility to this life-saving drug. It authorizes any individual, including family members, law enforcement officers and substance abuse counselors, to give out Naloxone as long as they receive instruction on how to use the kits and pass on those instructions to others.
I am co-sponsoring both of these proposals. Drug overdose death in Utah is an epidemic that exceeds deaths associated with both car crashes and firearms. Utah’s rate of drug overdose deaths is one of the highest in the nation. A tragic, growing trend like this is heartbreaking. I am grateful the legislature is continuing to address this issue.
Clean Air Legislation
Our bipartisan Clean Air Caucus is working on a variety of bills and appropriations requests. I will try to highlight some of these each week. One important request is for $500,000 to fund ongoing research efforts. We need to better understand the causes and solutions to our air quality problems. I hear of lots of possible ways to clean our air, but it is important we focus on those that are supported by reliable data.
I was asked to create a way for the public to contribute to clean air programs. For that reason, I am sponsoring HB 237 – “Income Tax Contribution for Clean Air.” Under this bill, Utah taxpayers will be given the opportunity to contribute to clean air programs, just as you are given the option to donate to organ donation, spay and neuter programs, and other worthwhile causes on your tax return. The Utah Clean Air Partnership (UCAIR) will administer the fund and work with other donors to find matching grants to stretch the contributed funds. Senator Curt Bramble is the Senate Sponsor.
Utah is the only state where all legislators serve on an appropriations subcommittee. As a member of the House Leadership, I also serve on the Executive Appropriations Committee.
The appropriations subcommittee I serve on is Business, Economic Development and Labor. During the first week of the session this committee began reviewing “base budgets” for various departments of state government: Department of Commerce, Public Service Commission, Finance Department, Tax Commission, Financial Institutions and USTAR.
Executive Appropriations Committee reviews the budgets of all of the appropriations subcommittees and some departments that report directly to our committee. This week we reviewed the budgets of Utah National Guard, Department of Veterans and Military Affairs, Capitol Preservation Board and Legislative staff offices. You are always welcome to join me in these meetings.
Research on the Hill
This week I had the great opportunity to meet some brilliant college students from all around the state, who presented their research projects at the State Capitol. I was fortunate enough to learn about a potential brain cancer treatment from John Peterson, one of my constituents. John is a senior in the Biology Department at the University of Utah.
I also met with Danielle Christensen, who is studying at Utah State University Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services. Her fascinating project is about the impact of military trauma on levels of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and relationship quality.