Rep. Brian King talks Medicaid expansion, net neutrality, assault allegation
At the conclusion of the 2019 Utah legislative session, Rep. Brian King will have notched 11 years on Capitol Hill.
King, a Salt Lake City Democrat whose district includes Summit Park and Pinebrook, plans to take advantage of the gains the House minority leader’s caucus made in the 2018 midterm election as well as take care of some of his own proposals and put to rest a dispute caused by an assault complaint lodged against him by a Republican senator.
While Republicans still hold a supermajority in Salt Lake City, the so-called “Blue Wave” in November washed ashore the Utah House of Representatives as four new Democrats head to the chamber this year. King said air quality and public lands issues will be priorities for the caucus, as well as defending the original text of ballot initiatives passed by voters during the election. Full Medicaid expansion via the Affordable Care Act passed via a statewide ballot measure last year, superseding an earlier, more conservative proposal passed on Capitol Hill.
When the Legislature’s plan for a partial Medicaid expansion passed last session, King was a “no” vote. He didn’t believe it would cover enough people, and he was opposed to a stipulation that Medicaid recipients be required to prove their employment.
“We voted no because we thought full Medicaid expansion was the way to go,” King said.
Now, in 2019, Republican lawmakers — including Sen. Allen Christensen, who represents much of northern Summit County — have put forth legislation that would establish caps on the number of people covered under Medicaid and that would reinstate the work requirement that caused King and a number of other Democrats to vote against the Legislature’s original plan. Alterations to the voter-approved expansion would require waivers to be sent to the federal government, delaying implementation.
“We’ve already delayed this five years; it’s just ridiculous,” King said. “It’s just insane to not expand it to have the benefit.”
He takes particular issue with the work requirement, which was not part of the plan that passed at the polls.
“They look at the poorest among us and they say, ‘The reason you’re poor is because you’re lazy,’” King said. “It’s a naked value judgment.”
King is also readying his own proposals tackling a variety of issues, like a law that would require action from bystanders in emergencies and one that would address net neutrality at the state level.
With bystander intervention, King hopes to introduce a small adjustment that he believes could make a big impact in crises.
“It’s narrow in scope and it’s focused just on individuals who know about someone who has suffered serious bodily injury and they have the ability to call 911,” King said.
Another proposal he plans to put forth would require the state government to do business only with internet service providers that adhere to net neutrality rules that were in place at the Federal Communications Commission prior to President Trump’s administration. Currently, only Comcast and Centurylink, two of the nation’s largest ISPs, serve Summit County.
No new developments
In regards to a criminal complaint state Sen. David Thatcher lodged against King accusing him of assaulting Thatcher in a Capitol hallway, King said he believes a video of the incident published by the Salt Lake Tribune shows that the complaint is a “nothing burger.” The video shows King making physical contact with Thatcher during a confrontation.
“I’ve never been so grateful for video in my life,” King said. “People can look at it and judge for themselves.”
Thatcher filed the complaint last year alleging that King assaulted him during a heated argument in a hallway. No further developments in the case have been announced since the release of the video.
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