Friday, February 5, 2016

2016 Legislation and Appropriations Update




This bill makes it standard procedure to not require legal representation for a person who is gaining a guardian. It's almost always a noble thing for someone to assume the role of a guardian. On the other hand, it's a serious thing for someone to lose their right to self-determination for the rest of their life.
The Utah guardianship process was too expensive, but a bill last year helped that tremendously by reducing the cost. Additionally, a process for getting pro bono or low cost legal representation is now in place across the state. It's now a very small barrier to cross.
Families aren't always simple - people get divorced and sometimes things ugly. Disabled people are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, sometimes even by a parent or adoptive parent.
If you agree that the system put in place last year is a low enough barrier to guardianship or that a person should have the right to an attorney in this situation, then you might want to contact your legislator.
This bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.  From the last meeting, they are giving the legal ramifications serious consideration.


Epilepsy affects somewhere between 20% and 40% of people with autism.  Our knowledge base about epilepsy is not strong at the Utah Autism Coalition, but there’s an organization that advocates for people with epilepsy: the Epilepsy Association of Utah.

HB75  EPILEPSY TRAINING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS - It sounds like a positive thing at first glance, but please read this statement from the EAU.

HB58  HEMP EXTRACT AMENDMENTS - this extends and modifies the 2014 law.  It seems to be moving quickly with little opposition.

Two bills offer different strategies for medical marijuana.  Here is a Salt Lake Tribune article comparing them.


In a recent press release, the EAU and Hope 4 Children with Epilepsy stated that they “stand in support of any legislative measures allowing the expansion of all treatment options, specifically any medical-grade product derived from the cannabis plant.  We encourage lawmakers to find acceptable solutions to bring these therapies to patients as soon as possible.”


The Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee will be taking public testimony on appropriation requests on the following days:

  • Monday, February 8, 2016 for the Department of Workforce Services and for Medicaid Expansion.
  • Tuesday, February 9, 2016  for the Department of Human Services including: the Division of Aging and Adult Services, the Division of Child and Family Services, the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, and the Division of Services for People with Disabilities.
  • Wednesday, February 10, 2016  for Department of Health including: Children with Special Health Care Needs, Baby Watch/Early Intervention, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Medicaid.

If you want to testify, you must contact Debbie Benson before 1:00 pm on the working day before the scheduled meeting. She can be reached at (801) 538-1034.  The Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee meets in room 30 of the House Building on the Capitol Complex.  The meetings are from 8:00-10:50 am.

Baby Watch/Early Intervention

All of the appropriation requests above are important, but funding for Baby Watch/Early Intervention is one area in particular where the autism community may want to contact their legislators. As described here, the program is underfunded...referrals continue to increase while funding has remained flat. An increase was requested, but not included in the governor's budget. If that's going to be addressed, it will need to be done through the committee mentioned above.