AARP AARP States Utah Advocacy

Utah Legislative Session Wrap-Up: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Danny Harris Feb 2012 edt
AARP Utah Advocacy Director Danny Harris.

It has been a whirlwind legislative session with a lot happening but as of last night it has come to a close. I want to thank you and all of the other great AARP advocates who stayed informed, got engaged, and made their voices heard to their legislators. I can’t stress enough that without your involvement, we could not do the work we do!

Here is what we saw from our view at the Capitol:

The Good

Wins for Family Caregivers – We are happy to report the passage of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act which will help family caregivers who are managing their loved one’s finances. Many family caregivers are frustrated when they can’t complete financial transactions for their family member because their Power of Attorney isn’t recognized by the bank because it is old or is from another state. This new law will help alleviate that by creating a standardized form and establishing the roles and responsibilities of those agents. It will also help prevent abuse of a Power of Attorney by establishing what they can and cannot do.

In addition, programs like Meals on Wheels and the Caregiver Support Program received nearly $300,000 in additional funding. These programs will help support more family caregivers in the critical work they do and allow more Utahns to continue to live independently in their homes. Not only is that where most of us prefer to grow older, but it is also the most cost-effective on our pocketbooks and on the state government’s budget. These are wins for everyone.

The Bad

No Medicaid Expansion - Utahns have repeatedly made it loud and clear that they support expanding Medicaid to the most vulnerable in our state. Unfortunately, very little was done this year to help those in the coverage gap. Of the 53,000 Utahns in the coverage gap, only 16,000 of them will receive access to health care this year. We continue to believe that Utah must close the coverage gap completely and will continue to work toward that end.

The Ugly

No Help for Workers Who Want to Save – More than half of private-sector workers don’t have a way to save for retirement at work. After nearly 18 months of studying the issue - including monthly meetings of various stakeholders who worked together to find a solution - SB133 (Small Employer Retirement Program) was drafted and outlined a simple way for business owners to get their employees saving for retirement. This working group was created under a resolution passed by the legislature last year “strongly urging” that such a solution be found.  Under the bill, the state would manage the review, selection, and administration of one or more private-market plans making it easy for both the employer and employee to take advantage of a competitive IRA savings plan offered in the workplace (similar to what our state does with the Utah Education Savings Program). The Senate approved this bill by a wide margin, but when the bill moved to the House it faced strong lobbying from the financial industry.  A House committee tabled the bill late on Tuesday night, effectively stopping the bill. We will continue to fight for greater access to retirement savings vehicles in Utah and expect to revisit this issue over the next year.

Throughout the remainder of this year we will build on the successes and setbacks from this legislative session. We will continue to work to support the family caregivers in our state and help more of Utah’s workers gain the ability to save for retirement at work. With your help, we can make Utah an even better place to live.



Danny Harris

Director of Advocacy, AARP Utah

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