Sunday, August 18, 2019

We are in the third quarter and so far it’s a shutout by Utah voters who had it right on the 2018 ballot. Ironically, the majority of Utah legislators voted – not once, but twice – to undo ballot initiatives that were passed by a majority, on the argument that Utah voters were “sold a bill of goods.” And now, with much egg on the face, we know that those who argued so forcefully to make significant changes to the ballot propositions got it woefully wrong.

Medical Cannabis: HB3001, the so-called ‘compromise’ bill that undid Prop 2 (passed in December of 2018) has now – correctly – been shown to create a drug cartel. That’s right folks – Utah is at risk of being a cartel drug dealer. Had Prop 2 been left intact, we would currently be working hard to keep up with the market which is be better suited to ensuring that patients have necessary, life-changing – sometimes life-saving – medication. Instead, it has become obvious that our current law is unworkable and needs to be changed. Again. But what we really should do is simply revert back to pre-HB3001 and let the voter-approved ballot initiative go into effect. And worse, Utah patients are still waiting for relief of medical conditions that are shown to be highly responsive to treatment by medical cannabis.

And of course, the issue that has been on our minds for so many years: Medicaid Expansion. Again, a majority of voters in Utah approved a self-imposed tax in order to provide our poorest, most vulnerable individuals and families access to quality healthcare. And again, a majority of my legislative colleagues told Utahns that they knew better than you, so they made sweeping and fundamental changes to the duly passed law. And to the surprise of exactly zero healthcare advocates, the Trump administration preemptively announced that it would not approve the waiver (not yet even submitted!) to pay the enhanced Medicaid match for fewer Utahns. Despite the fervent insistent by the bill sponsor that the waiver would be approved – that CMS indicated a favorable reception – we now know for certain what we always knew… that the Trump administration is not an honest broker, not even with its own allies. Administration officials led our legislators, desperate to hear what they wanted to hear, down a path of deceit, and the result is that the federal government kept Utah tax payer dollars from Utah’s most vulnerable for an additional year or more. My theory… they never intended to approve the waiver, they just wanted our state to go barking up another tree for an extra 18 months while they strung us along, all along avoiding sending our tax dollars back to Utah.

There has been a lot of coverage about the problems with the bills that were passed by the Utah legislature to supplant the 2018 ballot initiatives. The latest news includes the Utah Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that the Governor did not act outside of his authority to call a special session in December of 2018 in order to allow the legislature to make changes to the medical cannabis proposition. The legislative changes to Prop 2 will stand. However, even more changes are still required, because HB3001 got it wrong.

It is true that the ballot initiative process in our state is not perfect, and there are very real - and very legitimate - circumstances where initiatives, once passed, need legislative action. But necessary technical fixes should not be used as excuses to make significant, fundamental changes to voter-approved propositions. In the case of Prop 2 and 3, the legislative changes were sweeping and did little to preserve the intent or spirit of either law. The reality is, many of our legislators do not trust the intelligence, competence or judgment of the very voters who elected them to office. That must change - we must elect legislators who are responsive and accountable to voters. 

We are closely monitoring the destiny of Prop 4 to create an independent redistricting commission. Many legislators feel emboldened to gut our last ballot initiative because they believe that there will be zero accountability for their behavior. Please prove them wrong by supporting more responsive candidates on the ballot in 2020! We deserve better than unresponsive, unapologetically disdainful legislators who buck the will of voters. We must support candidates who want to serve the people, not special interests and their own financial well-being.

Please consider donating today! Your help is desperately needed! Donations will be used to support candidates in 2020 who wish to represent real people, as well as to raise funds for Better Boundaries to protect Prop 4.

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