Vaccine czar, more Biden cabinet confirmations, bills on Utah’s Capitol hill and women-owned businesses being left out.

Mitt Romney as vaccine czar?Hal Boyd writes in the Deseret News that while “Romney may have missed his opportunity to become president of the United States…he could still help heal the nation” by overseeing efforts to get hundreds of millions of vaccines into hundreds of millions of arms? Why? Because of Romney’s many years of jumping in and solving big problems, from his years at Bain to the 2002 Winter Olympics. His colleagues have described him as a guy who thrives when solving a big problem, writes Boyd, and “well, we currently have a big one – American lives are hanging in the balance.”

Two more confirmations – Pete Buttigieg was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the secretary of Transportation in a solid bipartisan vote of 86-13. At age 39, he is the youngest member of Biden’s cabinet. He takes the top spot in the agency that oversees everything from “federal highways to pipelines, air traffic and railroads, employing some 55,000 people.” He becomes the first openly gay person to be confirmed to a Cabinet post by the Senate. Both Utah Senators voted for him. The Senate also confirmed Alejandro Mayorkas to lead the Department of Homeland Security. Born in Cuba to a mother who fled the Holocaust, he is the first Latino and immigrant to serve in the top spot. With his confirmation, he will lead a family reunification task force to reunite hundreds of children separated from their parents at the border. His confirmation was rockier than Buttigieg, with a vote of 56-43. Utah Senator Mitt Romney voted for his confirmation while Senator Mike Lee voted no

On Utah’s Capitol Hill – There are many bills to watch this week, but here are a three that caught my eye. SB27 and SB27 are two bils that would expand the scope of physician assistants. The first would allow PAs to practice autonomously and the second would add them to the state’s Mental Health Professional Practice Act, allowing them to independently offer mental health care. The Utah Medical Association opposes these bills. Intermountain released a statement that said “On behalf of Intermountain, the  PA  bill will help us grow our network of providers caring for aligned lives in value based care plans.  The malpractice claims data doesn’t support the “lack of quality” concerns raised by many. From an Intermountain perspective, this makes great sense for us and our patients.” Revere Health Care, Regence Blue Cross, Select Health, and many others have assisted in drafting this legislation. Both bills have passed out of Senate committee and head to the full Senate for debate.

A bill to put limits on paid signature gatherers passed out of committee but it’s not without controversy. HB136 puts restrictions on organizers getting signatures for a citizen initiative or referendum – but does not put the same restrictions on political candidates. Opponents say it takes away the ability to do a referendum. “Utah voters approved three ballot measures in 2018 that legalized the use of medical cannabis, expanded Medicaid statewide under the Affordable Care Act and established an independent redistricting commission. Lawmakers altered all three of those voter-approved items.

Women-owned businesses being left out – The Utah Women in the Economy Commission recently listened to women describe being denied government funding “because their home-based business was viewed inaccurately as a ‘hobby business.’” Anne Marie Wallace, the state director of the Women’s Business Center of Utah and Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber write that  women-owned businesses are critical for Utah’s economic recovery. “Many successful businesses get their start when entrepreneurs turn interests into enterprises. As a society, we should encourage people to follow their passion while earning a living. Women entrepreneurs are taking a risk, filling a market need and accounting for profit/loss and we should support them as they grow the economy from home. Especially during a pandemic, we should not make the mistake of undervaluing home-based businesses that could become the next unicorn that started in a basement or garage.” Read their entire op-ed here.