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PM News Brief: Protecting healthcare workers, COVID vaccine incentives & $30 million lawsuit

A photo of healthcare workers.
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Utah lawmakers discussed a new bill Wednesday that would provide more protections for health care workers. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, Oct. 20, 2021

State

Utah lawmaker pushes for independent audit of two counties

Two Republican Utah lawmakers are pushing for the state to conduct an audit of the 2020 election in Salt Lake and Utah counties. According to Utah Highway Patrol, roughly 200 people showed up to a committee hearing Wednesday to discuss election integrity. Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan, said he also wants the state to regularly audit elections, make vote-by-mail very rare and eliminate the use of voting machines. Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson oversees Utah’s elections. She said there are already multiple safeguards in place to ensure secure voting, including voting machines that aren’t connected to the internet and signature verification. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson 

Utah looking at increasing protections for healthcare workers

Utah lawmakers discussed a new bill Wednesday that would provide more protections for health care workers. It would enhance penalties for people who assault any health care employee while on the job. Currently, those enhancements only apply when someone attacks a person providing emergency care. Mitch Cloward, an administrator at Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital, said these protections are greatly needed because hospitals have seen “an increased number of workplace violence events perpetrated by patients to our caregivers.” Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, is the bill’s sponsor. He said the pandemic has opened health care workers to more of these types of threats. The legislation is for next year’s General Session. — Emily Means

Northern Utah

Dave Robinson planning to sue the state over sexual harassment claims 

Dave Robinson said he intends to sue the state of Utah for $30 million. Robinson is the former volunteer communications director for the Salt Lake County Republican Party. Last spring, the Salt Lake Tribune reported women associated with the county GOP accused him of sexual harassment. Robinson is now seeking damages from the state and dozens of elected officials — including Gov. Spencer Cox — who he says attacked his character. The email announcing the suit was sent out by Scott Miller, the former Salt Lake County Republican Party chair. He resigned in March amid backlash over his response to the allegations against Robinson. — Caroline Ballard

Salt Lake County pushing to incentivize employees to get vaccinated 

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson announced a new vaccination incentive program Tuesday. County employees who show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 3 will receive $300. If they show everyone in their household over the age of 12 has achieved complete vaccination status, they will get an additional $100. That goes up another $100 if they also get their flu shot. According to county data, nearly 678,000 residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. — Ross Terrell

Region/Nation

Federal legislation regulating teen treatment programs announced

Earlier this year, alumni of teen treatment programs in Utah — led by Paris Hilton and the advocacy group Breaking Code Silence — pushed the state to revise its laws governing the “troubled teen” industry for the first time in 15 years. Their movement now has a new goal: federal legislation. Against the backdrop of the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-CA, announced Wednesday what could become the first-ever federal regulations on the teen treatment industry. The bill would guarantee that all children in treatments nationwide are afforded basic rights. It would also create a commission to study the industry and create a system of accountability. Advocates say the law change in Utah earlier this year gives Khanna’s bill critical momentum. Read the full story. David Fuchs, Washington D.C. 

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