A workers’ compensation bill in Utah has generated quite the unexpected controversy. HB 16, which has cleared the Utah house and is now apparently sailing through the Senate, is intended to allow Utah firefighters to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured while fighting fires in other states. Opponents of the measure, however, believe it authorizes the government to declare martial law, create internment camps, and force Covid 19 vaccinations on the great unwashed.

I hate it when that happens.

Sure, we can see where those actions could be easily misconstrued. We have often written about the unanticipated consequences of poorly crafted legislation. Workers’ compensation reform often results in the overthrow of democratic republics and the advent of the apocalypse.  

The panic is apparently the result of specific language in the bill, which references “emergency response teams” that would be authorized to conduct urban searches in coordination with out-of-state agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, in its current form, the bill states:

As used in this part:  “Emergency response team” means a group of emergency responders placed at the direction, control, and funding of the division, in accordance with an agreement between the division and a sponsoring agency and the provisions of this part, to assist in urban search and rescue, in response to or in anticipation of a disaster, emergency, or special security event.

Lawmakers have been inundated with emails and phone calls urging them to vote against this bill that will allow the enslavement of all unsuspecting Utah residents.

The furor has apparently been fueled by a Libertarian group in the state that is said to be known for far-fetched accusations. They have convinced people that the bill will give “local health departments, school boards, or any number of entities” access to “militarized emergency response teams that will then be used to round up unvaccinated Utahns and put them in camps to be forcibly vaccinated against COVID-19.” Others have suggested that residents could be arrested for speaking out against critical race theory, vaccination passports, or questioning the integrity of elections.

They must think this is Loudon County, Virginia.

Silly libertarians.

Far be it for me (as a silly libertarian) to sound like a rational middle-of-the-roader, but I would point out this bill simply defines what an “Emergency Response Team” is in order for people to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. It does not actually establish any “Emergency Response Team” for the purpose of fighting fires, persecuting citizenry, or enslaving millions (whichever). 

However, should the state follow through and pass legislation that facilitates the development of paramilitary outfits for the purpose of enslaving the population over any perceived and declared “emergency,” it does appear that those employed in the effort of suppression would now be covered by workers’ compensation if they are injured in the process of violating everyone else’s rights. 

If HB 16 passes, that is. And that should count for something, I suppose.

And we would be remiss if we did not point out that this bill, unlike so many other new laws related to first responder injuries passed in recent years, would actually require an injury related to the job in order for benefits to be awarded. That is kind of refreshing. 

As previously noted, we are not unfamiliar with the law of unanticipated consequences when it comes to legislative reforms of workers’ compensation. This wouldn’t be the first time legislators have “fixed” an element of workers’ comp only to inadvertently bring down civilization as we know it. It happens in California with frightening regularity. 

But in Utah, my money is that they may have to wait a while longer before their well-meaning legislators accidentally bring on the zombie apocalypse.

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