Medicaid expansion bill passes committee; here’s what else the legislature’s up to

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SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that expands health care for the poorest in Utah has passed a House committee.

House Bill 437, which provides health care coverage for only about 16,000 of Utah’s homeless, those in and out of the criminal justice system, and those in need of substance abuse and mental health treatment, passed out of committee on a 9-4 vote.

The bill is House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan’s proposal in the aftermath of last year’s battle over “Healthy Utah.” The bill does not provide the coverage that previous bills had, but has more support among House Republicans. Even advocates for the poor testified Monday that while it did not cover as many people as they wanted, they would support HB437.

The state would be on a 70-30 match with the federal government. Of that 30%, Dunnigan, R-Kearns, testified, hospitals would pick up about $13.6 million of the estimated $30 million price tag. The rest would be covered by the state.

HB437 now goes to the full House for debate.

With days left in the Utah State Legislature, lawmakers are working quickly to pass bills. Some highlights from Monday’s session:

  • The House and Senate passed a bill that would allow a Real Salt Lake specialty license plate. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature;
  • The House unanimously voted to rename its building after former House Speaker Becky Lockhart, who died last year;
  • The Senate voted unanimously to pass a bill that deals with your right to a lawyer. Senate Bill 155 is addressing critical lapses in the 6th Amendment. Bill sponsor Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, told the Senate that he believed Utah is violating people’s constitutional rights;
  • The legislature approved a bill to require Information Technology workers to report child pornography discovered on computers to law enforcement. The bill now goes to the governor;
  • The Senate gave final approval to a bill that adds pregnancy and breastfeeding to the state’s anti-discrimination laws in housing and employment. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature or veto;
  • A bill that would have raised the smoking age in Utah from 19 to 21 died in a House committee on an 8-4 vote;
  • A Senate committee approved a “fetal pain” bill over the objections of abortion rights activists. Senate Bill 234 requires an analgesic or anesthetic to be used on fetuses in abortions. It passed a committee on a 4-1 vote.
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