Morgan Pratt

Jim Dabakis resigned from the state chair of the Democratic Party on March 24 due to health problems. The Democratic Party is now looking for a new candidate to fill the position.

Anna Thompson is the communications director for the Utah Democratic Party and said Dabakis’s health problems developed quickly but refused to comment further regarding his well-being.

She said while Dabakis has resigned from the chair, he will seek re-election for his Utah Senate seat.

“As it stands now, the party staff will stay on and keep things moving forward,” Thompson said. “Jose Valadez, our intrepid vice chair, will serve as acting chair.”

Thompson said the party will vote for a new chair on April 26 at the state convention in Salt Lake City.

The chair has the responsibility of being the face and the voice of Democrats across the state.

“In an election year, you are working with a lot of candidates, you are traveling the state, you are going to county conventions and you are kind of acting as that most prominent voice on the behalf of the party,” Thompson said.

A New Marriage Equality Education Campaign

Mar 18, 2014

A statewide public education campaign called Utah Unites For Marriage was launched March 18 during a press conference.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah Brett Tolman, Mayor of Salt Lake Ralph Becker and a former TV news anchor Terry Wood have joined together to fight for gay marriage in response to the Kitchen v. Herbert court case.

Wood said the campaign has been formed to raise awareness about marriage equality through social media, press conferences and the internet.

Legislators Not Seeking Re-Election

Mar 14, 2014

As Utah’s legislative session ended late last night, some legislators -- including Pat Jones -- have announced they are not seeking re-election. 

“What mean my 14 years are up?? My last legislative session came too fast, but not fast enough," Jones posted on her Facebook wall. "Thanks family and friends for the opportunity of a lifetime!!!”

This past session, she served as the Assistant Minority Whip in the Utah State Senate.

Jones has served in the Senate since 2007, and prior to that she served in the House of Representatives since 2001.

Govorner Appoints New Second District Judge

Mar 14, 2014

Governor Gary Herbert has appointed Joseph M. Bean fill Judge Michael Lyon’s spot in the Second District Court. Lyons retired in September.

Herbert said choosing judges is the most important aspect of his job, and that he has appointed 37 since being governor.

"I go through an extensive review process and interview process where I have a face-to-face conversation," Herbert said. "I tell you, I pick the person that I think is best suited for the batch."

Veganism Is On The Rise

Mar 11, 2014

Last week I decided to take on a new change in my life. I wanted to join the ranks of Anne Hathaway, Bill Clinton and Al Gore and go vegan. In the end, I lasted a total of 36 hours and decided that all vegans were crazy.


Being vegan means you cannot eat meat, eggs, milk, honey, gelatin, fish and most importantly cheese.  As I have finished my vegan trial run, I decided to look into it more to see what I was missing out on. I caught up with Christine McPherson, a lifelong friend of mine who is mostly vegan.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah filed a preliminary injunction last week which would force the state, the attorney general and the governor to recognize the same-sex marriages that took place in Utah until the pending supreme court case has been decided. 

Since the stay on gay marriage was set in place, same-sex couples who were married in Utah do not have access marital rights that other heterosexual married couple’s receive.

John Mejia, the legal director for the ACLU, said the state currently recognizes gay marriages, but only for tax purposes.


Three Plans For Utah Medicaid Expansion Emerge

Mar 5, 2014
Utah Healthy Policy Project

As state legislators try to decide what to do about the 60,000 Utahns who fall into the Medicaid gap, there remain plenty of unanswered questions regarding health care reform.

There are currently three proposed health care plans in Utah. The House, Senate and Governor all are presenting separate plans.

The House’s Plan:

The House plan is being presented by Speaker of the House Becky Lockhart as House Bill 401. The reform by only using state dollars to cover the Medicaid gap.


The Senate’s Plan:

Senate Bill 251, which is sponsored by Sen. Brian Shiozowa, is a partial expansion and private-option plan. This means it would subsidize health care coverage through employer-sponsored insurance, private insurance and Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations.

The proposed bill would cover anybody who is under the poverty level which means any individual making less than $11,500 per year. By 2020, it is estimated to cover 54,000 Utahns.

Under this plan, Utah would have to ask the federal government to help cover 90 percent of the cost, while the state would cover the rest. This is opposed to the current system in which the national government covers 70 percent of Medicaid.

However, the Utah Health Policy Project, which supports the governor’s bill, is fearful that the federal government would pull it's funding down the road.

Caucus Bill Passes Committee After Compromise

Mar 4, 2014

State legislators have compromised with the Count My Vote initiative as it passed in the House Government Operations committee on Monday. A bill - SB54 - was amended to be inclusive to the Count My Vote movement.

Todd Weiler, a state senator from Bountiful, said if passed the bill would allow candidates to bypass the caucus system by collecting enough signatures to be on the voter ballot.

“The Count My Vote organizers have agreed to stop collecting signatures and to not submit the signatures," Weiler said. "They are going to effectively withdraw their language with SB 54.”

A Utah legislator is pushing to define things like carbon dioxide and nitrogen as natural components of the atmosphere, not as pollutants. The bill, HB 229, was proposed on Tuesday to the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee.

Rep. Jerry Anderson (R-Price) is a former science teacher. He said he is a sponsor of the bill, which would re-define what air contaminants mean, because carbon dioxide is an important part of photosynthesis.

Women Work to Eliminate Caucus Format

Feb 11, 2014

Count My Vote is holding a press conference Wednesday to encourage women to participate in the voting process and to persuade voters to sign a petition that would eliminate the caucus format.

Former first lady Norma Matheson, wife of the late Scott Matheson, is a part of the movement.

“We just want to emphasize how important the Count My Vote initiative is to increase the participation of all voters, but particularly women,” Norma Matheson said.

Utah Looks to Change State Tree

Feb 7, 2014

Thanks to a class of fourth graders from Monroe Elementary in Sevier County, Utah is changing it's state tree. Last September, the students gave a presentation to Gov. Gary Herbert about changing the state tree from the blue spruce to the aspen.

Bill sponsor Sen. Ralph Okerlund (R-Sen. District 24) said Senate Bill 41, which would change the state tree, passed unanimously in the Utah Senate earlier this week.

Utah State Senate Votes to Not Hear SB100

Feb 6, 2014

Utah State Sen. Steve Urquhart (R-Washington County) said his anti-discrimination bill, SB100, appears to be dead this week as party leaders in the senate decided to avoid legislation that may impact the federal gay marriage court case.

Urquhart pushed for GOP leaders to allow the bill to have a hearing.

He also called for supporters to leave notes about the bill on the Utah Senate doors. Since then, supporters left about 450 notes urging legislators to hear the bill.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is launching its first national anti-smoking campaign on Tuesday called “The Real Cost.” The movement is targeted at teens who are at risk of smoking. 

Mitch Zeller, director for Center for Tobacco Products at the FDA, said the ads are designed to build awareness and change teens' attitudes toward smoking. He said he wants to show teens the health risks of smoking by showing images of lost teeth, gum disease and premature wrinkling. 

Navajo Nation Council Passes Junk Food Bill

Jan 31, 2014

The Navajo Nation Council approved a bill Thursday to raise the sales tax on junk food and lower the tax on fruits and veggies.

Ben Shelly, president of the Navajo Nation, has ten days to approve or veto the bill said Denisa Livingston, a presenter of legislation of the Diné Community Advocacy Alliance.

State Senators Visit Lunchless Elementary Students

Jan 30, 2014

State Sen. Jim Dabakis and Sen. Todd Weiler visited the Uintah Elementary School in Salt Lake City Thursday to eat lunch with victims of a school lunch scandal.

It is estimated 30 elementary school children had their lunches thrown out after their parents didn’t pay the lunch fee.

Utah Gay Marriage at the Grammys

Jan 28, 2014

A same-sex couple from Utah are now married after a mass wedding ceremony officiated by Queen Latifah during the Grammy awards.

Spencer Stout and Dustin Reeser from Salt Lake City exchanged vows during the televised show.

League of Women Voters on Capital Hill

Jan 28, 2014
April Ashland

The Utah League of Women Voters gave an orientation of ways to lobby lawmakers during an onsite orientation on Monday at Capitol Hill.

Members of the league met in a room in the basement of the state capital, ate lunch, discussed the process of how bills become laws.

“Our founders believed women could vote their own heart and their own minds but like anybody they need education," said Jenn Gonnelly, co-president of the Utah League of Women Voters.

Carp Removal

Jan 23, 2014

Carp are being removed from Utah Lake as a way to clean up the murky water. The Utah Lake Commission is heading up the project in partnership with June Sucker Recovery Implementation Program over the next three years to get the carp population under control.

Carp have taken over the ecosystem in Utah Lake causing the June Sucker population to suffer since they were introduced, said Reed Price who is the director of the Utah Lake Commission.

The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is hosting Owl Day on Jan. 11. Owl Day is a part of a series of bird related events at the Brigham City refuge which includes swan day and eagle day.

Charlotte Mason, environmental education specialist for the refuge, said it has been around since 1928 with its visitor center opening its doors in 2006.

Experimental Coal Plant Proposal For Kanab Revoked

Jan 8, 2014

Viresco Energy LLC revoked its proposal to build an experimental coal gasification plant in Kanab. Sky Chaney, president of the Taxpayer Association of Kane County, said many of Kanab’s residents are happy about this recent announcement.

Chaney said Jim Guthrie, president of Viresco, decided to build the experimental plant in Kanab with the support of Gov. Gary Herbert, Rep. Mike Noel (R- District 73), the Mayor of Kanab and the US Department of Energy.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) will be visiting Utah State University on Friday to give a presentation entitled “Solving America’s Opportunity Crisis.” Lee said he will be discussing what he calls a crisis of unequal opportunity and a bill called the Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act which would change the current parent tax penalties. The event starts at 1 p.m. at the Ag Science building and it is open to the public.

Hill Air Force Base has been chosen to be the operational base for a fleet of the new fighter jets known as F-35s, the newest version of fighter planes from the Air Force also known as Lightning IIs.

Utah was picked to host the new planes for a variety of reasons, one being Hill Air Force Bases’ Close Proximity to Utah’s test and training range. John Petroff, Davis County Commission Chair, said Hill Air Force Base was chosen for more than its prime location.  

Verizon Wireless Helps Combat Domestic Violence

Nov 26, 2013

Verizon Wirelesses’ philanthropy project HopeLine recently donated a $6,000 grant to the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, a 25-year-old nonprofit organization that provides assistance for domestic abuse survivors.

Bob Kelley, Verizon’s public relations manager, said HopeLine is a project that helps domestic violence organizations raise money nationwide.

Retired Scientist Bikes Around the World

Nov 13, 2013

A Southern Utah man has cycled 24, 981 miles -- enough miles to circle the world at the equator. Jim Salmon, a 70-year-old retired scientist, accomplished his seven year goal to make it around the world last week, riding on biking trails and St. George city streets.

All he had was his mountain bike, tennis shoes, broken chains and popped tires. Salmon said he considers himself a slow rider, however, he averaged 300 miles a month.  

“It’s interesting. It was fun, but it was tedious," Salmon said.

Alzheimer's Disease Worldwide Collaboration Research

Nov 11, 2013

BYU Professor of neuroscience, Dr. John Kauwe, gave a presentation Thursday at Utah State University on Alzheimer’s disease for the Cache County Caregivers Coalition.

Kauwe said the disease comes from built up plaque as well as tangles in the neuron endings of the brain which make it hard for neurons to interact with one another.