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Summit County Officials React To Medicaid Expansion Bill

The Medicaid expansion bill, approved by the legislature and signed by Governor Herbert, is a done deal. But Summit County officials aren’t quite sure what is coming next.

Assistant County Manager Janna Young said they’re still trying to figure out the impacts they will see from the Medicaid legislation.

“The last we heard was that it will be about a $7 million hit to all counties which is the lesser of the two amounts that we had heard," Young said. "I believe the Governor was advocating for about a $15 million cut. So we’re still trying to figure out what impact that might have on us. I think that the county was pleased to see that if we don’t get the waivers that the state is asking for from the federal government then the law of the land will revert back to the Proposition 3 language. Which we support, we do support full expansion of Medicaid.”

She said the county also favors continued support for their Drug Court program and JRI. The latter is the Justice Reinvestment Initiative a program launched four years ago to lower many drug-related offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, in order to move offenders to treatment rather than incarceration.

“We have I think two sheriff’s that are dedicated specifically to that program," Young stated. "It’s really effective but it’s not funded at the level that we think it should be.”

The Medicaid bill supplanted Proposition 3, which was approved by voters last fall.

Meanwhile, several bills have been introduced to change the initiative/referendum process.

She said they are behind HB 119, which has the support of the legislative leadership.

“UAC and the League of Cities and Towns are working directly with house and senate leadership to modernize the referendum process," Young explained. "They’ve been instructed to find ways to make it easier as well as more consistent and fair and easier to understand. So we don’t know the details of a lot of what’s in that bill right now. They’re sill negotiation a lot of the pieces of it.”

The legislation deals with three major topics.

“One involved process and timing of the overall referendum process," Young continued. "For example, right now the county clerk has to consult with the petitioners or proponents of the initiative after they’ve already collected their signatures. So sometimes they’ll find that particular item is not eligible for the ballot. So, after they’ve already spent all these man hours to collect signatures then they’re told they can’t put it on the ballot. So, the timing of this would allow us to have those conversations up front and also allow the petitioners to appeal that decision in court up front.”

Some other items include whether elected officials can speak out about a referendum.

“There’s also the area of the threshold," Young said. "In order to get items on the ballot how many signatures do they need? Also the communication between residents and elected officials during the referendum process. I believe some of the folks working on this feel that our elected should be able to voice how they vote on a particular issue while not diving into the realm where they’re actually advocating for or against it.”

Young added that the county doesn’t support making the initiative process more difficult for citizens.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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