Senator speaks out after his lawmaking role, businesses pegged as ‘conflicts of interests’

This story originally appeared at kutv.com. Read it in its entirety here.

One Utah senator’s business interests impacting ballot initiatives are being called into question after a blog was published on Monday and he isn’t remaining quiet about it.

Angela Bacca wrote in Medium, an online publishing platform, that Senate Majority Leader Sen. Evan Vickers (R-Dist. 28) distributes 34% of Iron County’s opiates through two of his Cedar City pharmacies and had an instrumental role in the Prop 2 compromise that provides cultivation, processing, medical recommendation, and patient use of medical cannabis.

She also added in her blog that Vickers voted in favor of the Prop 3 replacement bill, Senate Bill 96, which created a path for the state to expand Medicaid. Bacca referenced a recent article from The Washington Post that released Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) database information that tracks pharmaceutical opiate distribution. That article connected Vickers to Cardinal Health, which is the third biggest supplier of pharmaceutical opiates in the nation and a distributor to the senator’s pharmacies.

Bacca wrote in her blog, “Like other parts of rural America, the region has been experiencing an alarming increase in heroin overdoses.” While she didn’t directly accuse Vickers of a conflict of interest or contributing to the opioid abuse epidemic, Alliance for a Better Utah expressed its concern that he may have done both by “whittling” legislation down with overhauls to the medical cannabis distribution system proposed by the voter-approved ballot initiative.

On Tuesday, Executive Director for Alliance for a Better Utah Chase Thomas issued the following statement after the blog’s publication:

“With a part-time citizen Legislature, issues with perceived or actual conflicts of interest will continue to arise, especially given Utah’s lack of strong laws addressing such conflicts and ethics.

The problem, in this case, is that Vickers worked to undermine Props 2 and 3, directly impacting the quality of healthcare available to people in rural areas where the opioid abuse is a serious problem. Rural Utah, in particular, is hurting right now because of the compounding impacts of available jobs, an underfunded healthcare system, and the opioid crisis. Rural healthcare providers have repeatedly drawn the link between opioid abuse and limited access to healthcare. Bypassing Props 2 and 3, Utahns took a stand for helping their neighbors. By whittling them down to fit the conservative ideology of Sen. Vickers and other majority leaders, Utahns all across the state lost out.”

This story originally appeared at kutv.com. Read it in its entirety here.

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