Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Thank you to those who attended our Bills and Bagels meeting last Saturday. Our participation continues to climb with members of the public. Four legislators attended including Representatives Francis Gibson, Marc Roberts, Norm Thurston, and Mike McKell.
We had a very good discussion about a number of bills in addition to education funding. I have included my weekly video below:
This week Governor Mitt Romney addressed our Republican Caucus. It was a fun discussion to learn about his journey as a Presidential Nominee for the Republican Party and his relationship with President Trump.
I have included several issues below that have been significant this week.
Utah is an employment-at-will state, where a worker can be fired or choose to leave employment for almost any reason. Under such circumstances, it makes little sense for employers to be permitted to compel their employees, especially those without access to proprietary information, to sign non-competes as a condition of employment and constrain their ability to work in the future.
Two years ago, Rep. Mike Schultz attempted to ban these post-employment restrictions in Utah and ultimately passed a bill that would limit their length to one year. This year, he chose to focus on an industry where abuses seem to be most pervasive â€“ the media.
In a recent committee meeting, media employers stated that without non-competes, their employees would be considered simply “chattel” and “widgets” and many claimed credit for the talents and personalities of those who work for them. The bill sponsor has received over 75 documented stories of non-compete abuse from workers in media who have asked for anonymity for fear of retribution from their employers.
Some low-wage workers, even when let go from their contracts by the employer, have been held to the non-compete and forced to either move for work or work in a field outside of their training and expertise. This does nothing to create a stronger, more dynamic market and it places a significant, and unfair, burden on the worker.
Interestingly, while the print media has covered this legislation, the broadcast media has not, and we have heard that they have been strongly discouraged from mentioning it in their newscasts. Those in print seldom, if ever, use non-competes, while those in broadcast media use them extensively, from on-camera talent to producers to cameramen. This brings up a serious First Amendment concern in what is meant to be the marketplace of ideas, and is evidence of the importance of not stifling media voices and allowing the free-flow of workers in the field.
HB 241, Post-employment Restrictions Amendments, passed the Utah House of Representatives with 62 of 75 votes in favor, and now moves on to the Senate for consideration.
Fresh Locally Produced Homemade Food
The Legislature is considering a bill that would make it legal for children to sell lemonade. That’s right, under current law, that practice is illegal. In order to sell homemade food and drinks, products must be prepared in an industrial kitchen subject to inspection, and the recipe must be submitted for approval.
HB 181, Home Consumption and Homemade Food Act, would simplify the process by allowing for the preparation and sale of homemade food or drink to an informed final customer, which means the product cannot be resold to other individuals or used in a restaurant. The producer must label the ingredients and inform the buyer of any common allergy hazards.
The intent of this bill is to allow the direct sale of locally grown and produced food items. Red meat and raw dairy products are not included in this legislation. The law does not prohibit giving away such unregulated foods; it only bans their sale. HB 181 would reduce the burden on small, home-based producers that sell directly to the public.
Suicide Prevention Task Force
Over the past seven years, the Utah Legislature has passed 15 bills addressing suicide and continue to make its prevention a priority. Lawmakers are currently considering several new measures to address this issue further, two of which have already passed the House. HB 41, Mental Health Crisis Line Amendments, creates a 24/7 state-wide crisis line staffed by specially trained first responders for mental and behavioral health issues. HB 42, Medicaid Waiver for Mental Health Crisis Services, seeks a Medicaid waiver for certain mental health crisis resources, including intervention by a mobile crisis outreach team.
On February 20, the Suicide Prevention Task Force, co-chaired by Rep. Steve Eliason and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, presented their recommendations to address the growing suicide crisis occurring in Utah. These recommendations include improving crisis response, reducing risk factors and enhancing protective measures.
A number of effective programs can be used and/or expanded to meet these goals, including mental health first aid training, peer-to-peer programs, public awareness messaging and the gun safety program, “Is Your Safety On” which has distributed over 40,000 gun locks since 2017. They also noted that a crucial part of suicide prevention is ensuring children feel cared for and loved.
While there is no single solution to this complex issue, the task force believes these steps are taking us in the right direction to help raise public awareness and, ultimately, reduce the number of suicides in our state.
Those suffering from suicidal thoughts can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
The Legislature is considering a bill that would provide women with information that could save their lives. Mammogram results reveal whether a patient has deep dense tissue and if so, cancer detection results may be clouded and misleading. HB 258, Women’s Cancer Screening Notification Amendments, would require facilities that perform screenings or diagnostic mammograms to inform patients with dense tissue of options for additional testing.
Often, women leave a physician or caregiver appointment without being made aware of the potential need for additional screenings, then years later discover cancer that could have been detected and treated at an earlier stage. This legislation will ensure that women are provided information of all findings in their mammogram reports so they can make their own informed decisions. During a press conference on February 16, cancer survivors who had previously undergone routine mammograms but were never informed that they had dense breast tissue, spoke in favor of this bill.
Since 1991, Utah has maintained in statute the Mammography Quality Assurance Act (Utah Code Section 26-21a-203), but those protections have not been updated since. HB 258 has no financial burden on taxpayers.
This bill passed the House and is now in the Senate for consideration.
The Legislature passed a concurrent resolution honoring Senator Orrin Hatch for his service and designated February 21, 2018, as “Orrin G. Hatch Day.” Senator Hatch was recently named the most effective Senator by a nonpartisan research organization – the Center for Effective Lawmaking. He has been an advocate of religious liberty, authoring the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and has helped improve access, mobility and quality of life for millions of Americans with his sponsorship of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. Hatch holds the distinction of being the longest-serving Senator in Utah’s history and he has done immeasurable good for our state and nation.
Utah’s economy continues to grow. Revised consensus revenue estimates were released on Wednesday, February 21. They project a total of $508 million in new ongoing General Fund and Education Fund revenues, $126 million higher than December 2017 estimates, and new one-time funds of $184 million, $83 million more than initially estimated.
A Tribute to Utah’s Fallen Soldiers
On February 16, the House of Representatives had the privilege of honoring Utah’s fallen soldiers on the House floor as Rep. Justin Fawson, who served in the National Guard for almost 10 years, paid tribute to them and their families. Those who lost loved ones varied in age and background: a newlywed, a widow with two young boys and mothers holding pictures of their sons. The entire House body stood and observed a moment of silence to commemorate the soldiers and the sacrifice they and their families have made for our country.
Thank you for the privilege of representing House District 66. I look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions during the legislative session, please feel free to contact me any time. I can be reached on my cell phone at (801) 210-1495. If for any reason you are unable to contact me during the legislative session, my intern Seth Gillespie can be reached at (385) 441-0587 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Utah House of Representatives
State House District 66