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Rep. Dan Johnson Says Safety Bills Are Week's Priority

The Springville Fire & Rescue ambulance #43 in a parade on South Main Street (U.S. Route 89) in Springville, Utah, June 2016, is close to Salt Lake City. But in rural areas, there is a shortage of EMS providers.
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Rep. Dan Johnson of Logan said whether or not Emergency Medical Services can be classified as "essential services" will be huge for the state.

While the bill introduced to censure Sen. Mitt Romney is at the height of public opinion, some Utah lawmakers say the bill is a waste of time. Instead, Representative Dan Johnson saidsafety issues are going to be one of his main focuses of the week, such as House Bill 190 that aims to redefine emergency medical services as an “essential service.”

“Police and the highway patrol is an essential service, but EMS is not," said the Republican representative from Logan. "There's a big issue with the amount of the coverage, but then there's also a big deal with who's paying for which city pays for it, which county is paying for it.”

Johnson said while some cities have fully staffed public safety services, more rural areas are often lacking.

“Because when you get rural areas, a lot of that is done by volunteer," Johnson said. "And so when somebody has an accident, the laying out in some highway that's, you know, 100 miles from nowhere, and who are you relying on to come and get you?”

One possible solution was introduced by Republican Representative Val Potter of Cache County: a “phased retirement” bill. The bill would allow public safety employees and firefighters to remain on staff part-time after retirement. This way, they could scale back on hours, but it would still keep experienced employees on staff. He said one inspiration for this is the shortage of firefighters and EMS employees across the state.

Another safety items to watch is an amendment bill to increase penalties for distracted driving. Johnson said the bill has passed committee and will continue to be discussed through the week.