Rep. Watkins Reports on Second Week of 2019 Legislative Session

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Representative Christine Watkins (center) with CTE students Chloe Wilson, a USUE welding student (left) and James Bryner, a Carbon High student (right).

By Rep. Christine Watkins

We had a whirlwind week at the legislature last week. We were very busy in committee meetings. The first three weeks are when the appropriation committees meet.

I am the House vice-chair of the Business and Economic Development Committee and we have been listening to state department reports and requests. We also started listening to all of the groups in the state who want financial help. I am a sponsor for a number of requests. The Prehistoric Museum, Bryner Museum and the Helper Arts Festival have made requests. We have at least one hundred entities asking for financial requests.

The Medicaid Expansion bill, SB96S4, seemed at times to suck the air out of the room. Until Thursday, I was not supporting the bill, but when Rep. Ray Ward’s bill was put in as a back-stop, I found it more acceptable. One of the reasons leadership and the governor wanted it heard and passed quickly was so that the April 1 enrollment deadline could be met. If a federal waiver is not given (leadership has been told by the federal Medicaid people that it will be given), then Medicaid will basically fall back to Proposition Three with just one or two administrative changes.

A bill that would increase the alcoholic content of beer sold in Utah grocery stores from 3.2 to 4.8 percent cleared its first hurdle in a Senate committee Thursday. The 3.2 beer is probably not going to be made much longer, so we need to legalize the 4.8 percentage beer.

A bill that would have loosened requirements for legal notices to be published in a local newspaper failed to pass the Utah House with a vote of 35-39. This bill had the potential of hurting our small rural newspapers.

I voted in favor of a bill that will stop the practice of giving schools a letter grade each year for their performance, a system that has been largely criticized for relying too much on test scores and accounting too little for diversity. It passed out of committee and is headed to the House Floor.

On Friday, Feb. 8, the House had the distinct honor of welcoming the families who have lost their loved ones serving in the armed forces in 2018. We are deeply indebted for the service and sacrifice of these men and women. It was a very touching time and heartbreaking to see so many young children without their mom or dad.

We are increasing floor time this week so I know I will be able to present my three bills to the body for their consideration and vote. I have picked up a new bill, HB207, License Plate Placement Amendments. The bill removes the requirement to have two license plates displayed.

I am the appropriation sponsor for the Coal Country Strike Team. It has not been before my committee yet, but after the opinion article in the Deseret News, I am sure people have been alerted to the issues we have in Carbon and Emery counties. It was a tough week; thanks for all of the calls and emails.

Email: christinewatkins@le.utah.gov, Cell: 435-650-1969, Facebook: Representative Christine Watkins District 69

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