Watkins Kicks Off 2019 Legislative Session With 3 Bills

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Students from Carbon High visited Watkins for Utah History Day on the Hill on Thursday.

By Representative Christine Watkins

It was a very busy week for me at the legislature. I am on some new committees and I am getting up to speed with them.  I am vice-chair of the Business, Economic Development, and Labor Appropriation Subcommittee.  I am on the Education and Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee. I am also House chair of the Child Welfare Oversight Committee and a member of the Native American Liaison Committee.

I have filed a number of bills and three of them made it to committee. I was able to pass each of them out of committee and the next step is to pass them on the House Floor. I passed HB138, Special Designation of Route 6; HB84, Economic Development Programs Amendments; and HB104S01, Private Counselors Amendments. The Economic Bill fixes a part of last year’s bill that put a limitation on the amount BEAR (Business Expansion and Retention) grants can be funded. The cap was not put there by me and somehow, I missed that it was put in. It also shortens the time that a business that applies for a Rural Fast Track Grant has to prove success in their business. The time frame has been changed from two years to one.

The Private Counselors Amendment bill is a really important amendment to the Justice Reform Bill that was passed a few years ago. Currently, all counselors who have the appropriate license to work with people who have been court ordered to attend substance abuse or mental health counseling have to have a facility license. If the counselor works for a place like Four Corners, they don’t need to do this. But, if you are a private provider, you still have to get a facility license, which is time consuming and unnecessary. Judges were told to only allow people to go to a provider who have a facility license. This took many valid providers out of the loop and people were struggling getting into counselors. I thought this was a rural issue and had the bill written to include only counties of the third through sixth class. The assistant director for the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health contacted me and asked that the whole state be included in this change. He also helped clarify some of the language in the bill.  All three of the bills passed unanimously in committee and the counselor bill received praise for the change that it will make.

On Monday, I was the House Sponsor for S.C.R.2, a resolution recognizing and honoring Navajo Code Talkers. The Senate sponsor is Senator Jani Iwamoto. This resolution not only honors the Navajo Code Talkers, it names August 14, 2019, as Navajo Code Talkers Day. I am also the House Sponsor of Senator Iwamoto’s SB101, which designates a permanent Code Talker Day, and designates portions of Highways 162, 163, and 191 in San Juan County as the Navajo Code Talker Highway. I am very honored that Senator Iwamoto asked me to be her House Sponsor.

My intern this year is Elliott Ramirez from Orem; she is currently a student at Southern Utah University. She is an energetic and very helpful young woman and I appreciate her help during the session.

Honored to be working for you; please stay in touch.

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

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