Salt Lake City, UT – This afternoon, the House Business and Labor Committee heard S.B. 96, Sen. Christensen’s bill that would repeal full Medicaid expansion as approved by voters last November. Despite acknowledging the overwhelming public interest in this bill over the first two weeks of the session, Rep. Jim Dunnigan limited public testimony to only twelve individuals. Public testimony in the Senate Committee was limited to only ten people.
Unfortunately, after raising his hand to testify, Better Utah’s executive director Chase Thomas was sitting behind dozens of members of the public who quickly stood up to get in line. He has issued his prepared testimony as a statement on today’s hearing:
“Most of the discussion on this bill has resolved around the intricacies of funding, the possibilities of waivers, and other policy-heavy arguments. While we have talked with academics from across the country who are experts on these issues, I’m not going to speak for them, except to say that they disagree with the financial arguments that are being used to justify this bill and believe that Proposition 3 could be implemented without being the budgetary disaster that some lawmakers are using as a boogeyman on this issue. We are more than willing to give their information to any lawmakers who would like to speak to them directly.
What I would like to address is the impact this bill is currently having on Utahns across the state and the future implications it could have on the Utah electorate.
S.B. 96 is an anti-democratic bill. By rolling back to policies and waivers already considered and passed by the Legislature in past years, it directly overturns the legislative intent of the people. It tells Utahns that even though they had the right to approve Proposition 3 under the Utah Constitution, that their vote can be immediately overturned and repealed. The vast majority of comments that we’ve heard during this process are “How does my vote matter” and “Why even vote.” We have even heard from people who voted against Prop 3 and oppose Medicaid expansion that are upset with this bill because of its message to voters.
If this bill passes, everyone should be concerned about the impact it could have on civic engagement across the state. Everyone should be concerned about the impact this could have on public respect for constitutional principles, not only of the right to initiatives, but also to the very core of how a democratic republic functions. Because if the Legislature doesn’t actually represent what the people want, then what is it for?
My main plea today is to ask you to remember this message you are sending to voters as you vote on this bill today. But we also hope that voters hear your message loud and clear. And we’re committing today to doing all that we can to ensure that they remember next election. “