Bob Bernick’s notebook: Congratulations, Utahns! You won

Utah Capitol 18

Well, the Medicaid expansion debate in the 2019 Legislature is about over – senators will throw in a few words around Monday before sending SB96 on to Gov. Gary Herbert, who will sign it and we’re done.

So, I have a few comments to the Utahns who supported the propositions on the 2018 ballot – two of which, medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion – have already been changed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Congratulations. You have won!

Yes, the medical marijuana law modified by last year’s Legislature in early December’s special session is different than Prop. 2.

And, yes, the Medicaid expansion plan adopted now by the new Legislature is different that Prop. 3.

But in both cases, the backers of the propositions got what they wanted – a workable plan for Utahns suffering from a variety of ailments can get relief from medical marijuana.

And 150,000 or so low-income Utahns who are not on medical insurance will get it under the Medicaid expansion lawmakers and Herbert are approving.

Again. You all won!

And you would not have gotten either politically progressive action in a very conservative Utah if you advocates had not hit the streets, gathered over 113,000 signatures from fellow Utah voters and pushed your issues over the November ballot.

Take a breath. Enjoy what you have achieved.

Don’t look at either the December nor February legislative compromises as defeats.

They are not.

They are victories.

When Utah children are given their first relief from some really awful, painful diseases through marijuana – still an illegal drug according to the federal government — and when a poor family can see a doctor or take their sick child to an emergency room and not get stuck with bills of hundreds or thousands of dollars, you will see that you really have won the big fight.

Don’t sweat, or complain, about some of the small stuff – perhaps a bit of expense here, or bureaucratic paperwork there.

In the big picture, you have won.

Now, government being what it is, you need to be watchful.

Examine how these two new programs are actually carried out by government and health care workers.

Document troubles or failures.

And in the 2020 Legislature – armed with an election year in your back pockets – come back to the Legislature to demand, and work toward, fixes to medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion.

My guess is you will probably find receptive ears in the Capitol.

And for now, take a victory lap – if only a small one around your living room.

The citizen initiative processed worked.

Without it, and without you, I can promise you we would not see medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion in Utah.