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Greg Hughes Opens Legislature With Call To Battle Big Pharma Over Opioid Crisis

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Austen Diamond
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Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes gives opening remarks to the 2018 Utah Legislative General Session.

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes opened the first day of the 2018 legislative session telling lawmakers to brace themselves for a fire-hose of tough issues, including taking on opioid makers.

Speaker Hughes couldn’t resist taking a dig at Congress during his opening remarks to lawmakers.

“It’s the first day that this legislature convenes, and that business starts on behalf of the people we serve, and it is the same day on Monday morning — on what should be a work day — our federal government was shut down," he said.

Contrasting what he described as Utah’s consensus style of governing to a dysfunctional Washington, the Republican leader outlined several priorities for the session — including a harder line against opioid makers.

Hughes said he and Attorney General Sean Reyes, in a shift in policy, had agreed to file suit against manufacturers, joining several Utah counties who’ve already pledged to do so.

“This is why — it’s not a money chase for me — I want the crush of liability to be felt across this country, to the point where it doesn’t make business sense anymore," he said. "We need practices to change.”

Hughes also plans to spur more affordable housing and have communities pitch in to alleviate homelessness. He also hinted at “big changes” to transportation policy.

On the Senate side, President Wayne Niederhauser welcomed back the chamber’s 29 members and reiterated another top priority of the session: state tax reform.

“And with federal reform, we have probably a once in a multi-decade opportunity to do something like this," Niederhauser said.

This will be the last session for several longtime incumbents, including Speaker Hughes. He called on lawmakers not to lose their momentum.

“This isn’t a somber moment, this is a rallying cry," he said, his voice breaking some. "This is a call to arms. We’re getting together, we’re doing this together... and I want to thank you so much.”

Lawmakers will now have 45 days to sort through some of the nearly 1,200 bills already requested.

 

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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