Week 7 Update (Final Week)

It finally happened, the 2013 General Session is about over. The session has been long and tiring, but it has also been a very successful one. Starting in late January, I would have never thought that we would have arrived to the point that we are today, not just with my legislation, but also with the work of the entire legislature. It has been a memorable session, especially with seeing many important pieces of legislation being passed, some of which included my own bills.

In looking back at the beginning of session, I did not anticipate the amount of support that I would receive as well as the constant struggle that I had with some of my bills. I was able to work with many great people and organizations that helped me this year, something that I am grateful for. I first passed S.C.R. 2, which recognized the role that the Workers Compensation Fund plays in encouraging a safe work environment and protecting workers. Soon after, in association with the Workers Compensation Fund, Utah AFL–CIO, Utah Transit Authority, Kennecott Copper, and many others, we celebrated the passing of S.C.R. 9 and S.J.R. 8. Both of these pieces of legislation were associated with safety, especially in the workplace and on the road. S.C.R. 9 designates a week this June as “Workplace Safety Week” and S.J.R. 8 encourages the Utah Driver License Division to include questions on safe driving around railroad crossings and mass transit.

This is part of my goal in creating a “Culture of Safety” in Utah. This is not just for the workplace, but also on the road and in our communities in which we live. I want to see every family have the opportunity to be safe in their homes, every child to have their parents return safely from work, and for us, as neighbors, to learn and live together courteously. I know the important role that each of us play in creating this “Culture of Safety” and plan to continue fighting for it on behalf of every working family in Utah.

The last three weeks proved to be the busiest here at the legislature for me. My two largest bills, S.B. 44 and S.B. 59 were both heard in committee, debated in the Senate and House, and were passed. If only things were as easy as that last sentence made it out to be it would have been the greatest session ever. Unfortunately, it has been a fight to get these bills passed, with many obstacles and occasionally some powerful opposition. S.B. 44 fixed an issue that we had with the misclassification of workers after a similar bill was passed three years ago. It closed certain loopholes that certain companies were exploiting, but by doing so, it also provided workers with insurance, workers compensation, and other protections. We saw from data was collected that there were certain employees who were still being denied these protections. An addition, the people and state of Utah loss tax revenue because of the misclassification of these workers.

S.B. 59 proved to be my most difficult bill to create and be passed. It started with the problem of injured workers who were having their treatment delayed because of how the Workers Compensation Fund and health insurance providers decided who had to cover the injury. In some cases, certain injuries would be debated for years with having the employee sitting on the side still injured. It took almost three years to draft this bill and have the necessary important parties agree to it. Eventually, all three sides agreed on the version of our bill because we were able to gain support from the Utah Medical Association, the Workers Compensation Fund, and the largest health insurance providers in Utah. This is good legislation that will immediately benefit workers, providing them the safe knowledge that they will be taken care of in an accident.

This session also provided me with great opportunities to help with certain projects in my district. My largest achievement was being able to obtain $700,000 for Taylorsville, which will be appropriated to create a tunnel to alleviate congestion in a very dense part of the valley. I was also able to help obtain $10,000 for miscellaneous projects at the Kearns Veterans Memorial. These are very important projects here in Senate District 5, and I appreciate the help I received from my colleagues in providing funding for these projects. Another important appropriation that I obtained was $25,000, ongoing, for the Judicial Conduct Commission. This commission reviews complaints of judicial misconduct of state, county, and municipal judges and reports to the state Supreme Court.

Throughout the year I have been able to meet and work with many people here, both in and out of the legislature. It has been a busy session, but it has been worth it. We were able to make significant strides for the state, such as increasing funding for public education and improving the programs that we have in place. Not all of our goals were met, but we hopefully have impacted the state for the better. It has been wonderful serving you during this session. Although it is almost over, my work is not done and I plan to continue to serve you. We have a great state and we live in a great district. Thank you for your support and for all of those that have helped during this legislative session.

Karen

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