Utah News

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

52 Strong: Civil Rights Means Rights For All

Mar 13, 2015
Jason Gilmore

Our last installment of the 52 Strong USU Civil Rights pilgrimage series takes us on the road with iconic civil rights activist Bob Zellner. USU professor Jason Gilmore tells us more about the white man who stood up for the rights of blacks, understanding that it was truly for the rights of all.

Stylized painting of a person with colorful paint strokes depicting the brain

Brain injury is sometimes called the silent epidemic because the symptoms aren't often obvious to the general public. Yet for many with brain injuries, each day is a struggle to keep afloat.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Utah works to increase awareness and provide support to those people whose lives have been devastated by the long-term effects of a brain injury.

LGBT flag

Milestone legislation that would ban LGBT discrimination while protecting religious liberties has made it to the desk of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.

The Utah House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 296 late Wednesday evening, on the second-to-last night of this year’s general session. But the favorable 65-10 vote came after some emotional discussion on the House floor.

Several lawmakers, including Republican Rep. Ken Ivory, voiced their opposition to the bill. Ivory argued that the bill was being rushed into law, and it needed more time to be analyzed.

No Medicaid Deal As Legislative Session Ends

Mar 12, 2015

Any chance for a deal between supporters of Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah Medicaid expansion and rival plan Utah Cares have died with the conclusion of this year’s legislative session. It was announced that no agreement had been reached during a Thursday press conference with the Governor and legislative leaders. However, there is hope that the issue could be resolved through a special session of the legislature.

Speaking on Wednesday, Herbert said that Healthy Utah was the best option for dealing with the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion mandate.

New Tesla Dealer In Utah Hits Roadblock

Mar 11, 2015

If you’re in the market for a new car and are thinking a Tesla might be the way to go, be prepared to make the purchase out of state.

The opening of a new Tesla Motors dealership in Salt Lake City is on hold after lawmakers voted against revising a key state law.

Currently there is a provision that prohibits manufacturers from opening up sales locations that would compete with privately owned dealerships.

However, James Chen, vice president of regulatory affairs for Tesla Motors said his company doesn't operate using business models other dealers use.


On Monday, a large crowd of parents and educators gathered at the state capital to join in a rally calling for the approval of Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s plan to increase per-pupil spending. In his plan, Herbert called for an increase of 6.25 percent with lawmakers proposing an alternative raise of just 4 percent.

The different rates mean that there is an $80 million disparity between the two plans. While he appreciates the fact that a large amount of funding is still being considered, Herbert said that Utah is able to afford his plan thanks to the state’s robust economy.


A bill that would enact tougher punishments for cockfighting is on the verge of passing in the Utah Legislature.

Currently in Utah, cockfighting-associated offenses are considered misdemeanors under state law. But Senate Bill 134 would make a third offense a third-degree felony. The bill was proposed by Democratic Senator Gene Davis of Salt Lake City—though his original draft called for felony charges upon first offense.

Utah Legislature Votes To Revive Firing Squad

Mar 11, 2015
Associated Press

Utah’s Republican-controlled state legislature voted Tuesday to bring back executions by firing squad.

It is being called the most dramatic illustration yet of the nationwide frustration over botched executions and shortages of the drugs used in lethal injections. The bill would allow firing squads if there is a deficiency of these drugs.

American Civil Liberties Union of Utah Legal Director John Mejia says the bill has already brought negative attention to the state.

billboard for airport

A dwindling number of air carriers serve remote towns with federal subsidies from the Essential Air Service, or EAS program. In Utah, they include Moab, Vernal and Cedar City. In May, two out of the three are set to lose their air service to Salt Lake City. It’s a game of musical chairs that isn’t set to end soon.

A Caffe Ibis roaster holds freshly roasted beans.
Elaine Taylor

In late February Caffe Ibis coffee roaster Brandon Despain went from coffee competition newbie to first place winner of the US Coffee Championship. Despain began working for the Logan-based café as a barista a decade ago. He eventually transitioned to the position of roaster, training under late Caffe Ibis Co-owner and Roastmaster Randy Wirth.

Death With Dignity Bill Put On Hold

Mar 10, 2015

A bill supporting physician-assisted suicide has been tabled by the state legislature, with the intent that it will be reconsidered next year. House Bill 391, called the Utah Death with Dignity Act, was introduced last week by Salt Lake City Democratic Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck. The bill would allow certain qualified terminally-ill adults to take their own life through a self-administered prescription drug. Chavez-Houck said that this is not the same as euthanasia.

Dry Winter Will Bring Wildfires, Officials Say

Mar 10, 2015

Meteorologists are calling this winter the warmest on record. While this might be good news to picnickers and hikers, officials are saying the pleasant weather could have some unpleasant effects on the environment.

Jason Curry from the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands says the dry weather will likely bring an increase in wildfires.

crowd gathers in Selma, Ala.
Jason Gilmore

Our next installment of the 52 Strong: USU Civil Rights Pilgrimage series takes us to Selma, Ala. for the fiftieth anniversary of bloody Sunday. USU Professor Jason Gilmore brings us the history of the now infamous march, with research help by Austin White of Bellevue College.


A new report adds to a growing stack of studies showing that public lands can have a huge impact on local economies. Chris Mehl is with the nonprofit research group Headwaters Economics, and author of a report that analyzed the employment picture in Grand County, which encompasses Moab, as well as Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

"We found that almost half, 47 percent of private jobs in the county are supported by tourism and recreation on these public lands, like the national parks, the forest service land, the BLM land," Mehl said.

A Utah Man Competes In World Tree Climbing Championship

Mar 6, 2015
Melissa Allison

The 2015 International Tree Climbing Championship (ITC) happens March 21 in Tampa, Fla. Throughout the year, Mark Malmstrom and his crew remove and mulch trees, but during the competition he is on his own.

“We’re not there to cut the tree down or pretend to cut the tree down," said Malmstrom, a Cache Valley arborist. "We’re there to test our climbing ability.”

The ITC invite both male and female entrants to compete in events that arborists encounter in their line of work. Malmstrom said some of these events can be daunting.

New Climate Study Met With Controversy

Mar 5, 2015

In January, I met with Simon Wang, director of the Utah Climate Center, to discuss the difference in winter weather in the eastern and western United States. In 2014 the West set record-warm temperatures and continues to experience drought conditions, while the East is still expecting heavy winter storms and record-low temperatures going into March.


Gov. Herbert in office

After some resistance from leading state lawmakers in recent weeks, the Utah House of Representatives gave Gov. Gary Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan a committee hearing on Wednesday night. But that small triumph for the governor brought major disappointment for him and other proponents of Senate Bill 164 later, when the House Business and Labor Committee shot it down by a 9-4 vote, effectively ending any hope for the proposal.

blogs.state.gov / U.S. Department of State

A Utah proposal protecting gay and transgender individuals received unanimous approval from a Republican-controlled Senate committee Thursday morning.

The bill, which has earned a rare stamp of approval from the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, bars discrimination against LGBT individuals while protecting the rights of religious groups and their followers.

Equality Utah’s Executive Director Troy Williams said this bill is unprecedented in Utah.

An orchestra performs with a choir in the background.

Weeks of rehearsal at the Uintah Basin Orchestra and Chorus will culminate in the organization’s highest profile concert yet. This sold-out event will feature arrangements and original compositions by Mack Wilberg with guest conductor Craig Jessop at the helm.

Jessop is the former conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and current music director and conductor of the American Festival Chorus and Orchestra in Logan. Both he and Wilberg grew up in rural Utah, Millville and Castledale respectively, and he said he thought it would be great to have an all-Utah concert in Vernal.

“You do not have to come from a large metropolitan area to achieve your dreams or be successful in any area,” Jessop said. “Here are two country-Utah boys coming to Vernal with their resources, doing this, I think very, very exciting concert.”

April Ashland

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Lawmakers in Utah's House of Representatives have voted to reject Gov. Gary Herbert's hard fought Medicaid plan and instead push forward their own alternative proposal.

A House business and labor committee voted 4-9 Wednesday night against the Republican governor's proposal.

They then voted 9-4 to advance a plan from House GOP lawmakers that covers fewer people and costs more. It still needs approval from the full House, the Senate and the governor.

Representatives for Herbert had no immediate comment on the Wednesday votes.


The 2015 general session of the state legislature is set to end on March 12. Utah’s elected officials must now work out a deal on several unresolved issues facing the state with a little over a week remaining. The bills in question range from healthcare to electoral reform.

Among the considered legislation is Senate Bill 259, which would approve marijuana use for medical purposes. Dr. Chris Stock, who testified in a committee hearing for the bill, said that the subject deserves more serious consideration before a vote.

Ryan Padriac

The state House of Representatives will hear the case for Republican Gov. Gary Herbert's Medicaid expansion proposal. The decision comes in spite of comments by Republican House Speaker Greg Hughes, who said that the measure would not be considered.

The Governor has spent months negotiating Healthy Utah with federal officials and the state legislature. Hughes said that the long and meticulous debate over Healthy Utah is important to ensure a good outcome for the state. He is adamant that Utah will not be able to leave the plan if it wants.


The National Parks in Utah and others around the U.S. could get some much-needed maintenance and additional staff if Congress approves a proposed budget under consideration. John Garder, the budget and appropriations director for the National Parks Conservation Association, said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is asking Congress to up National Park Service funding by more than $400 million, an increase of more than 10 percent. After years of recession-related budget cuts, Garder said the parks are in pretty rough shape and need help.

a sheet of music
Library of Congress

On Wednesday, the Utah Music Educators Association will rally in the Utah State Capitol rotunda during their annual “Day on the Hill.” Their goal: to meet with Utah lawmakers and draw attention to music educators and the important role they play in young students’ development.

“Most kids aren’t going to fall in love with calculus," said Michael Huff, the founding conductor of the Utah Voices. "But they fall in love with the process of being together, and music is one of the most broad and effective ways to get more students involved in some kind of a group, a collective activity that inspires them.”


Gabrela Woodworth understands that if she wants to become an American citizen, she’s going to have to compete with hundreds of thousands of others who share the dream of citizenship. She knows the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will process approximately 680,000 citizens this year. She also knows the process of naturalization requires her to be able to speak, read and write English.