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Autism Insurance Mandate: Why SB 57 Passed in 2014

Autism in Utah is hitting record numbers. The national average for children with Autism is 1 in every 88. For Utah this number changes drastically to 1 in every 47. To battle this increasing regularity of children with Autism, Utah Senate Bill 57 was proposed to help provide insurance coverage for Autistic Children.

Proponents of SB 57 (autism insurance reform bill) believe that state-regulated health plans must be available to families dealing with Autism to cover speech, occupational and physical therapy, psychological and psychiatric care, and behavioral health treatments, including applied behavior analysis (ABA).

Behavioral health treatment benefits would be capped annually at $36,000 through age 9 and $18,000 from ages 9 through 18.

Many believe that Autism is a treatable disorder however most children in Utah do not have access to treatment. A staggering 80% to 90% of maladaptive behaviors are eliminated through evidence-based treatment. 47% of the children that do receive evidence-based treatment do not require ongoing special education versus only 2% of those who do not receive treatment.

The average state savings for a child with autism who receives evidence-based treatment is between $900,000 and $1,500,000.

A recent claim has sparked a debate as to what role the insurance company should play with the issue of Autism. An Autistic child was climbing a tree and fell to the ground and broke his arm.

When the child’s parents submitted the claim to their insurance company, they were told it was not covered because the fall was the result of their child being autistic. This story is one of many and is one of the reasons why proponents were pushing for this reform bill.

Sen. Brian Shiozawa said it best during a senate floor debate on this issue: “we faithfully pay our premiums, please cover our condition.”

With Autism numbers rising and reaching “epidemic” proportions in the state of Utah, many believe action must be taken now to help curb this rising number and provide the means for those who need treatment to receive it.


Why I Voted No On Increasing The Age To Purchase Tabacco


Some advocate that Utah should be the first state in the union to raise the tobacco-buying age to 21. Senate Bill 12 was aiming for exactly that — but failed on the floor.

Some of the best arguments against it were that Utah would be making criminals out of people who already developed the habit before coming to Utah. For instance, someone driving from Las Vegas to Jackson Hole — or a soldier reassigned to Hill Air Force Base — couldn’t legally purchase or use tobacco products.

SB 12 aimed to raise the age limit for all tobacco products including chewing tobacco and E-Cigs (Electronic-Ciggarettes) by claiming that 95% of adult smokers begin before they turn 21. Also, a 21-year-old who has never smoked has 20-to-1 odds against ever picking up the habit. The odds for an 18 year non smoker are a not-so-friendly 3 to 1.

Could raising the legal smoking age by two years save many young potential smokers by making it harder to obtain tobacco during these important “tipping point” years? Proponents believe so. Opponents don’t see things as simply.

Those in favor of the bill believe that the fewer number of users at this crucial age will amount to less and less adult users over time, and in doing so alleviate the healthcare system of millions dollars in smoking related healthcare. 90% of adults that purchase tobacco for kids are under the age of 21. Which means a lot of 19 and 20 year olds are buying tobacco for their friends a couple years behind them. 62% of current youth smokers get their cigarettes from social contacts. Increasing the age limit by two years would decrease youth’s likelihood of coming into contact with it in their social circles. Having a universal age for alcohol and tobacco would simplify the ID checks for retailors and ensure better control on who is buying what.

Opponents to the bill believe raising the limit will not have the desired effect because smoking rates are already coming down, and smokers start way before age 21 anyway. The average initiation age of cigarette users is 13 years of age. Another argument is how much say the government should have in people’s personal lives. If a citizen is old enough to vote, be drafted and fight for his/her country then why shouldnt they have the right to decide what to and what not to put in their bodies?

With Utah already having the lowest smoking percentage in all of america and with smoking rates declining why fix what doesnt appear to be broken. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) Utah has the lowest smoking rate in the country. A Gallup poll in 2011 put the smoking rate in Utah at 11%, far below the National average of 21%. Education Prevention in elementary and Jr. High schools seems one possible solution to decrease long-term smokers and still uphold citizens rights.


The Bills I Passed In 2014


Pictured above are my interns (and one extra helper) with Ben McAdams. I really appreciated all the help I received this session!

Here is a summary of the bills I passed this session:

SB0014 Long-term Care Partnership – This bill requires the Utah Department of Health to amend the state Medicaid plan to create a qualified long-term care insurance partnership.

SB0015 Reemployment Restrictions Amendments – This bill modifies the Utah State Retirement and Insurance Benefit Act by amending post-retirement employment restrictions.

SB0028 Utah Retirement Amendments – This bill modifies the Utah State Retirement and Insurance Benefit Act and the Utah State Personnel Management Act by amending retirement provisions.

SB0090S01 Residency Amendments – This bill amends provisions of the Election Code relating to residency.

SB0137S01 Health Care Professional Truth in Advertising – This bill amends the unprofessional and unlawful conduct provisions of the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing Act to require all licensed health care providers to disclose to a patient the health care provider’s type of license and name.

SB0143S01 Nail Technician Practice Amendments – This bill modifies statewide amendments to the International Mechanical Code and modifies the Barber, Cosmetologist/Barber, Esthetician, Electrologist, and Nail Technician Licensing Act.

SB0173S01 Child Protection Amendments – This bill modifies provisions of the Juvenile Court Act.

SB0189 Residence Lien Restriction Amendments – This bill modifies provisions relating to eligibility for claims against the Residence Lien Recovery Fund.

SB0196S01 Medical Waste Incineration Prohibition – This bill deals with the incineration of infectious waste and chemotherapeutic agents.

SB0221S01 Indigent Counsel in Juvenile Court – This bill amends provisions related to the appointment of counsel for indigents in juvenile court proceedings.

SB0222 Automatic License Plate Reader System Amendments – This bill modifies the Traffic Code by amending provisions relating to automatic license plate reader systems.

SB0227 Exposure of Children to Pornography – This bill amends provisions related to factors a court shall consider in a child custody determination and in a termination of parental rights proceeding.

SB0229S04 Adoption Act Amendments – This bill amends provisions of Title 78B, Chapter 6, Part 1, Utah Adoption Act, relating to the rights and obligations of individuals in relation to the adoption of a child.

SB0267S01 Governmental Immunity Act Amendments – This bill modifies a provision relating to the filing of a notice of claim.

SB 96 — my lobbyist disclosure bill — died in the House. I will continue to pursue this issue because I believe we need more openness and transparency in the mid-term vacancy process.

My home teacher, Bob Williams, came and visited with me on the Senate floor.


Who owns the rivers?


Who owns the ground underneath a river? And should it contain a public easement — like a sidewalk?

HB 37 would give more access to the public to the beautiful lakes and rivers of Utah. It will allow access to fish, boat, kayak, swimming, etc. on sections of a river that — at this point — are considered “private” and off limits for public citizens.

Back in 2010, Utah lawmakers limited access for anglers and other river enthusiasts to only the water itself when it flows through private property. Current law provides that if you are fishing on water that runs through private property, you cannot stand on the riverbed or even turn your boat upstream. You are also prohibited to stand on the side of the river. HB bill 37 would allow more access to the public to these vital waterways.

Private property owners are concerned because allowing more access to the public increases the risk of abuse. Damaging, littering and polluting these private sections of river are a big concern. Not only for small sections of a river, but for all rivers and lakes. The real issue is the enforcement of the existing laws to help and alleviate some of the concerns of private property owners.

Some believe that more enforcement of the current laws regarding our lakes and rivers is all that is needed.

HB 37 would create some positive solutions immediately; two current lawsuits would be rendered moot. Also, the public would likely be more open to assisting private residences with funding when flood damage occurs. As of now people, ask why taxpayers should assist private property owners who do not grant public access.

Can someone claim rights to a section of water — or is it for all to enjoy? Everybody wants clean, fresh and unpolluted waters to use and enjoy. Compromise is at the heart of the issue. From the beginning of time, anything done upstream affects the quality downstream. Finding a middle ground where citizens can enjoy all the beauty that this state has to offer while private property rights are respected is what HB 37 is designed to accomplish.


Five Things You Probably Don’t Know About Count My Vote (CMV)


Count My Vote (CMV) wants you to believe that they are a grass roots effort to improve our election process in Utah.

But … There’s a lot more to the story. Here are 10 things you probably don’t know about CMV :

1. The man (men) behind the curtain.

Who are these mysterious people who wrote the 22-page petition and have raised almost a million dollars to get it on the ballot? The answer? Mike Leavitt, Kirk Jowers, Rich McKeown and LaVarr Webb. Google these names with “Utah” if you don’t recognize them.

Source: (“The Count My Vote group is led by former governor and Cabinet secretary Mike Leavitt; [Rich] McKeown; University of Utah political scientist Kirk Jowers; and others.”)

2. CMV organizers don’t go to their own caucuses (and didn’t bother to offer public comments in political party meetings or legislative hearings).

Source: (“Mike Leavitt didn’t attend his neighborhood caucus in 2012. … just a third of the donors … have been to a party caucus in the last several years.”)

Source: (“Nobody from Count My Vote testified on Bramble’s bill, but organizers don’t like the approach.”)

3. The real motivation behind CMV is that the organizers want to be able to access the Republican primary ballot without going through the party’s long-established procedures and processes. To me, this is like trying to become Pope without going through the conclave. Mind you, these wealthy people could already access the ballots as independents — but they want the well-branded GOP (R) after their names!

4. The first fatal flaw of CMV is that it fails to provide a runoff after a direct, open primary. If you have 12 candidates, then one could win with 15% of the vote. This could have happened in 2002 or 2012 when Utah had open congressional seats and ten or more Republicans filed.

5. the second fatal flaw is that a republican running for governor would have to gather 427% more signatures to get on the ballot than a democrat. I’m not sure that’s even constitutional! Here are the numbers: 13,124 signatures for a republican and 2,798 for Democrats. And yes, those are the numbers mandated by CMV. Sound fair to you?

In the News

Here is a recap of some of my bills and issues in the news … (watch the video)

Photos From The 2014 General Session

I fully supported Arts Day on the Hill during Week 2 — and not just because my wife is on the Utah Arts Council!


Rabbi Benny Zippel of the Chubad Lubavitch congregation opened the Senate Floor time with a wonderful prayer during Week 2.



Here I am speaking to the Davis Chamber’s Leadership institute during Week 3. We had a great conversation about transportation funding.


South Davis Fire District Chief Jeff Bassett and I enjoyed lunch during Week 2 and talked about retirement and other issues.


Rep. Seelig, Sen. Robles and I joined Councilmen Roger and Bradshaw for a Rose Park Community Council Town Hall during Week 2.


We honored Terry Schow, the former director of Veteran Affairs, on the Senate floor during Week 2.



I enjoyed answering questions at this Town Hall at the Bountiful City Hall during Week One.