Utah State Legislature

Andrea Smardon / KUER

Utah’s Republican lawmakers say they’re not ready to make any decisions about Medicaid expansion or the governor’s alternative plan. That means over 110,000 low income Utahns will likely be waiting at least until next year before they know what their health insurance options may be.

At a GOP caucus this week, Republicans legislators determined that they don’t all agree when it comes to Medicaid and healthcare reform.

University of Utah

A bill to reform the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative (USTAR) is heading to the governor’s desk for his approval. The legislation comes after an audit found that the program exaggerated the number of jobs created.

A proposal to tie Utah’s gas tax to the price of fuel is heading to the state Senate for consideration. Members of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee voted unanimously Wednesday in support of a bill which would impose a percentage tax per gallon of gas.

Utahns currently pay 24.5 cents to the state for every gallon of gas, a tax rate set back in 1997. Senator John Valentine believes that the tax should more closely align with the price of gas – since that’s how the state pays for road construction and maintenance.

Brian Grimmett

Governor Gary Herbert said this week that the state has a moral obligation to provide some type of health coverage for those living in poverty. House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart says she doesn’t want to accept any federal dollars to do that. Now Republican House lawmakers are working to find a solution that will solve the so-called Medicaid gap, but will also be politically acceptable to those in their own party.

The number of young people in Utah who are going to jail is declining according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s National Kid’s Count Project.  The report shows the decline is about on pace with the majority of the United States. But the progress could be cut short because of budget cuts.

Utah lawmakers are hoping to bring in millions of additional tax dollars from online retailers, but a bill being proposed might be in conflict with the U-S Constitution. Federal law currently allows the state to collect taxes from online retailers as long as they have a physical location in that state, like a store or distribution warehouse. Senate Bill 226, sponsored by Republican Senator Wayne Harper would empower Utah to collect taxes from some out-of-state online retailers.

Utah lawmakers are reportedly working with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and social rights groups to help pass a statewide law protecting gays and lesbians from housing and employment discrimination.  Utah Governor Gary Herbert told reporters Tuesday he’s not involved in the discussions but will consider the bill.

More than a dozen non-profit groups working to end violence against women and girls gathered at the state capitol this morning to bring focus to a harrowing United Nation's statistic; 1 in 3 women in the world will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. The gathering was part of the One Billion Rising anti-violence movement led by Eve Ensler, Author of the Vagina Monologues. 

After considerable debate Monday, the state House of Representatives approved legislation making it illegal for Utah drivers to smoke in their cars if they have a child as a passenger. The debate centered not around the effects of second hand smoke, but on the role of government in our lives.

The bill would make it a secondary offense to smoke while driving with someone under 16 years old. Democratic sponsor Patrice Arent argued that it’s lawmakers’ responsibility to protect children from harm.  

Andrea Smardon

A bill that would mandate insurance coverage of autism testing and treatment in Utah will advance to the floor of the state Senate.  The Senate Business and Labor Committee approved the bill 5-2 Thursday, despite lawmakers concerns that the bill would not only cost taxpayer money, but would also drive up health insurance premiums. 

Andrea Smardon

Utah citizens and activists gathered on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday to demand action to clean up the state’s polluted air.  The rally was part of a grassroots effort, including a Facebook campaign and petition.

University of Utah student Carl Ingwell started the Facebook campaign, urging people to inundate the Utah governor’s office with calls and e-mails, demanding action. His campaign led him to the steps of the Capitol, speaking to about 150 concerned citizens.

Andrea Smardon

State House Speaker Rebecca Lockhart opened this year’s legislative session by calling on Utah to become less reliant on federal dollars.

Lockhart told House members that gridlock in Congress has a direct and immediate effect on Utah.

“It’s become increasingly apparent that the action or inaction of the federal government profoundly influences our success. We must have or implement a plan to get the state of Utah less reliant on federal revenue,” said Lockhart.