Utah News

Utah News and UPR Newsline are productions of Utah Public Radio. Our news partners include: The Herald Journal.


Five years ago in Layton, two girls, Rebecca and Rachel Toone, died after a pesticide company buried Fumitoxin near their home. Fumes from the chemical poisoned the girls. As it turns out, instructions on where to place the pesticide were not followed.

“We’re pretty strict here in the state. We really take it serious.” said Scott Oldham, pesticide program manager with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. “Where we lost those Toone girls five years back in Layton, that’s something that we don’t ever want to see again and so we really run a tight ship here.”

Lee: Current Budget Leaves Problems Unresolved

Oct 30, 2015

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee took to the floor of the Senate Thursday to voice his opposition to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. The act ultimately passed the Senate by a vote of 64 to 35, with David Vitter of Louisiana not voting.

Lee had harsh words for the legislation, which would raise the debt limit while finalizing the push for a two-year budget. He criticized the tight negotiations that went into creating the bill as going against GOP principles.


  Seventy Utah cities are running their 2015 municipal elections by-mail, meaning registered voters have each received a ballot and have the opportunity to fill it out and mail it to their city office by Nov. 3.


Finding Utah's At-Risk Kindergarteners

Oct 29, 2015

The legislative Education Interim Committee in Salt Lake City took up the question of how best to implement optional enhanced kindergarten during its meeting on Wednesday. The draft legislation under consideration would expand funding to provide all-day kindergarten to students deemed to be academically at-risk.

North Dakota State

Nine point four percent of Utah’s children are uninsured – giving the state the fifth worst record in the country. The data comes from a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. The study showed that the rate of uninsured children nationally dropped to a historic low of six percent since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014. But Utah’s rate showed virtually no change from the year before. Report co-author Joan Alker said part of the reason Utah lags behind with children – is that the state chose not to expand Medicaid for their parents.

Study: Sixth Amendment Violations In Utah Courts

Oct 27, 2015

“I felt that the time had arrived when the Court would lay down the general rule that every man, the poor as well as the rich, was entitled to the benefit of counsel.”

That’s Abe Fortas, speaking in 1963 after he successfully argued the side of Clarence Earl Gideon in the landmark Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright. The victory upheld a defendant’s right to counsel in state criminal courts. Over 50 years later, civil liberties groups are claiming that Utah’s indigent defendants are being systemically denied that right.


Proposition 1 is a ballot initiative that allows Utahns in participating counties to vote on a sales tax increase with funds earmarked specifically for transportation purposes.

However, some have come out against Proposition 1, taking issue with how the money will be appropriated if approved, specifically how 40 percent of funds raised must be directed to a local transportation entity.

For Utahns along the Wasatch Front that means the Utah Transit authority, an organization that met controversy in 2014 for paying out large sums of money in UTA executive bonuses.

USU Professor Takes On TEDxUSU

Oct 23, 2015
Melissa Allison

Ted Talks got their start in 1984 with a lineup that included Lucasfilm and talks about 3-D graphics. Even with an amazing list of speakers that first event lost money. It wasn’t until six years later that Ted Talks took hold of the world and sold out to an invitation only crowd.


Gov. Gary Herbert used his monthly press conference on Thursday to express his frustration concerning Medicaid expansion. UtahAccess+, the end product of a summer’s worth of negotiations between the state’s legislative and executive leaders, failed to clear a Republican caucus meeting last week.

Herbert said that he still stands by his original Healthy Utah proposal, claiming it was the state’s best option, yet.

Travel Agents Put A New Spin On An Old Industry

Oct 21, 2015
Oregon State

According to an article in the Huffington Post, travel agents are considered a “secret weapon” when it comes to planning your trip. The article used research done by a luxury travel agent, Steve Shulem, to explain that not only are travel agents the best at getting the lowest prices possible, they are a safety net when things go wrong.

Lee Introduces Criminal Justice Bill

Oct 20, 2015

On Monday, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee argued his case for criminal justice reform at a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Senator spoke on the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, a bill he co-sponsored.

The bill does not erase mandatory minimums for federal drug convictions from the law books. Lee said that the legislation would focus on creating smarter, more just sentencing.  

Deficits Hurting Utah Veterans And Seniors

Oct 16, 2015

According to a newly released report, the U.S. Treasury is predicted to run out of money by the middle of November. If funds run out, Social Security and veterans payments to Utahns and Americans elsewhere could be affected.

Steve Bell is the senior director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. He said that revenues over the next month will not be enough to pay the bills.

UtahAccess+ Fails In GOP Caucus Meeting

Oct 15, 2015

Tuesday, a Republican caucus meeting in the state capitol failed to find enough votes to put forward UtahAccess+, the current Medicaid expansion plan, to the legislature. The proposal’s defeat came as a disappointment to House and Senate Democrats.

Minority Leader and Salt Lake City Democratic Rep. Brian King said that Republican House Speaker Greg Hughes ensured that UtahAccess+ would not see the light of day by instituting new voting procedures.

Hackers For the Greater Good Unite At Utah State

Oct 13, 2015
Aimee Cobabe

College and high school students gathered at Utah State University this past weekend for what is called a hackathon. Organizers of events like this said learning how to “hack” could help students prepare for a career in computer technology.

The event at the USU campus is not unique. According to organizers, about 7,000 people were hacking/coding worldwide.

Huntsman 'No Labels' Convention Draws Crowd

Oct 13, 2015

Eight presidential hopefuls were in New Hampshire Monday for the Problem Solvers Convention. The event, co-hosted by former presidential candidate and Utah Gov. John Huntsman Jr., gave undecided voters in the important primary state the chance to get to know the candidates and discussion pressing national issues.

The convention was the brainchild of the nonpartisan advocacy group No Labels, of which Huntsman is co-chair. He said that Americans are fed up with divisiveness in the nation’s capital and want more pragmatic policies.  


On Saturday, several state representatives held a town hall in Logan to explain UtahAccess+. The meeting was mostly informational, with time given for constituents to air their concerns. Much of the discussion centered on the expected costs of the program.

Medicaid expansion costs are shared by the federal government and the states. By creating an alternative plan, Utah would agree to pay a higher share of the cost, in exchange for more flexibility. Logan Republican Curt Webb said that UtahAccess+ stands a good chance of being approved by the federal government.

Utah's Last Monarch Release Of The Season

Oct 10, 2015

Wednesday was the last mass monarch butterfly release of the season. Activists are tracking the released butterflies to discover their migration pathway.


The most recent monarch release took place on Wednesday in St. George, to mark the opening of a water conservation park. It was the last butterfly release of the season.

National Week Of Action For School-To-Prison-Pipeline

Oct 9, 2015
Salt Lake Peer Court

Last week was national week of action against school pushout, a practice where schools take an active role in discouraging a student’s education through detention, suspension and expulsion; instead of peer, institutional and parental support.


According to a report by Public Policy Clinic of the University of Utah, one in three inmates at the Utah State Prison is a high school dropout.

Students who fail to finish high school are three and a half times more likely to be arrested as an adult.


Rugby Is Taking Hold Of Utah

Oct 9, 2015
Rugby Youth Utah

The 2015 Rugby World Cup is taking place this month in the United Kingdom and the match between South Africa and the United States on Wednesday proved less than thrilling for Americans. In the words of Kimball Kjar, who used to play for the U.S. and is now the director of operations for Rugby Utah, it was tantamount to one-way traffic.

Logan City Council Approves City-Wide Bike Lanes

Oct 7, 2015

Cycling activists packed the Logan City council meeting on Tuesday to show their support for the bicycle and pedestrian master plan, also known as bike-ped. The advocates biked together to the meeting and wore their helmets to show their enthusiasm for the plan.  



The resolution is intended to make cycling and walking safer and more readily available to Logan residents by establishing bike lanes throughout the city.  

Prison Reform Takes Effect In Utah

Oct 7, 2015

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, effective on Oct. 1 across Utah, allows state inmates to complete programs that will reduce their sentence time by up to four months.  

“JRI is a whole new way to look at criminal justice in how we incarcerate, how we supervise, and how we treat people in our criminal justice system,” said Steve Gehrke, the director of quality and process improvement officer with the department of corrections.

USU Hosts First Disability Rights Week

Oct 6, 2015

Utah State University is honoring the 25th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act this week by celebrating Disability Rights Week.

“The actual anniversary was in July, but we wanted to do something that impacted the student body,” said Shane Johnson, the development officer at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at USU.


The 100 year anniversary of the National Parks will be celebrated next year. To help visitors prepare, there’s a new interactive app that shares information about the nation’s parks, including those in Utah.

The Next Exit History app allows users to find historical markers around the country on their phone.

Utah Senators Diverge On Shutdown Vote

Oct 2, 2015

Mike Lee was one of 20 Senators Wednesday to vote against the continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 11. The measure passed 78 votes to 20. Lee’s colleague, Sen. Orrin Hatch, voted for the measure, highlighting the growing division among Congressional Republicans over the best strategy to limit federal spending.

USU's Chocolate Class Is A Golden Ticket

Oct 2, 2015
(© AP Images)

Mesoamericans called it, "Theobrama cacao - The food of the gods." We call it chocolate, and that chocolate bar you're eating got it's start almost 7,000 miles from Utah on a small cocoa bean farm in West Africa.