Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We’ve officially reached the half-way point of the session! So far, we’ve passed a total of 91 bills with many more to come. Last week was quite busy with numerous meetings, constituent emails, phone calls, and committees. I am especially appreciative of my constituents and everyone who continues to support me. I am working hard to represent you in the Legislature. Keep voicing your concerns and sending me input.
Rural county commissioners and prosecutors have been struggling with an increased number of cows and horses being shot in their jurisdictions. Many are also dealing with the occasional theft and killing of livestock guardian dogs. H.B. 166 Livestock Amendments, increases penalties for the destruction of livestock, including livestock guardian dogs. Occasionally, individuals traveling in the backcountry, either on Forest Service or BLM land, will see working livestock dogs and assume the dog has been abandoned or lost. In their desire to be helpful, they take the dog, leaving herds vulnerable to predators. The bill clarifies ownership standards for livestock and livestock guardian dogs. H.B. 166 passed in the Senate and will return to the House for concurrence. To listen to the bill presentation on the Senate floor, click here.
Expanding Health Care Access
Utah is currently experiencing a shortage of doctors. As such, mid-level care providers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants (PAs) help meet our healthcare needs throughout the state, particularly in rural communities. This year, the Senate is considering various bills to expand physician assistants' scope of practice. Last year, a supervising physician for a PA in rural Utah passed away, preventing that PA from seeing and treating patients he had been treating for years due to the loss of his supervising physician.
In the midst of a pandemic, we need to ensure that Utahns throughout the state have access to healthcare.
The first bill, S.B. 27 Physician Assistant Act Amendments, expands the scope of PAs’ practice to allow a pathway for PAs to operate without a supervising physician once they receive sufficient training.
The second bill, S.B. 28 Physician Assistant Mental Health Practice, focuses specifically on our psychiatric health care shortage in Utah by allowing a PA who specializes in psychiatric mental health to engage in the practice of mental health therapy if they meet specific training requirements.
These bills each passed their second readings in the Senate but are currently circled to allow for more stakeholder input before final passage.
Higher Education Scholarship Amendments
Last year, the Legislature passed a bill to expand the Regents' Scholarship eligibility to include Western Governors University, Westminster College, BYU and Ensign College. This year, S.B. 136 Higher Education Scholarships Amendments, renames the Regents' Scholarship to the Opportunity Scholarship, deletes outdated language from the program and sunsets the New Century Scholarship. Essentially, this bill merges two separate technical education scholarships that were separate before the Legislature joined Utah's systems of higher education in 2020. It will take effect Fall 2021 for the graduating class of 2022. S.B. 136 passed the Senate and will now return to the House for their consideration. You can watch the floor presentation here.
Epinephrine Auto-Injector (EpiPen) Access
Last year, we addressed a series of solutions to combat the state's insulin crisis, including an option for patients to buy insulin at a discounted price through the Public Employees Health Program (PEHP). This year, the Legislature wants to extend beyond insulin discounts by introducing H.B. 206 Epinephrine Auto-Injector Access, which would allow patients to purchase EpiPen medication at a discounted price. Often, this life-saving medication is expensive, and the generic brand is not always available to patients in need. The PEHP program indicates that there are funds to cover the costs of this program and will not add additional expense to the general fund. This bill passed on the second reading calendar and will be considered on the third reading calendar. You can watch the floor presentation here.
Improving Air Quality
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen working from home greatly decrease traffic volume and increase air quality. Many people have also noticed that working from home does not impact productivity and can improve an employee’s work/life balance. S.B. 15 Workforce Solutions for Air Quality Amendments, requires that state agencies provide and measure teleworking options for state employees during bad air quality days. The bill also requires the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget to notify state agencies of mandatory air quality action days and special circumstance days so those agencies can encourage teleworking for their eligible employees. S.B. 15 passed in the committee and will now be heard on the Senate floor. To listen to the committee meeting, click here.
Happy Presidents’ Day
I hope you have a Happy Presidents’ Day! This day is celebrated to honor all U.S. presidents, both past and present. I am grateful for our independence, protection of our personal rights and maintaining peace with other nations.
Senator Ron Winterton
Utah Senate District 26