Utah News

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


The Utah Republican Party is in hot water with its national counterpart over the state’s presidential primary election. The Republican National Committee is asking Utah to change the date of its 2016 Republican primary. Utah’s registered Republicans are set to decide on their nominee on June 28th of that year. However, because its national convention will be held earlier than normal next year, the GOP has decided that states must hold their primaries before the second Saturday in June of 2016.

Utahns Rally For Clean Air

Feb 2, 2015
Melissa Allison

As members of the state legislature considers $28 million worth of proposals intended to improve air quality, residents in Cache Valley gathered at the Logan Library on Saturday to join other residents across Utah.

“Air is an inalienable right. I mean, come on folks, we should have clean air and clean water.”

Kate Stephens, a volunteer for Utah Mom’s for Clean Air, organized the rally at the library and said she believes people in general care about other human beings and children exposed to air pollution suffer.

“Children who are exposed to air pollution will likely never develop full lung capacity as adults," Stephens said. "And air pollution exacerbates existing asthma in both adults and children.”

Gov. Gary Herbert, said he is working with law makers to pass more this session.

State Rep. Jack Draxler is proposing an alternative bill concerning tax increases to fund Utah’s public education system. Among other things, Draxler’s bill proposes to use 25 percent of the revenue from an increase in the state’s income tax to provide for a raise in public school teacher salaries. Another 25 percent would go toward technology programs while the remaining 50 percent would be allocated to performance-based teacher pay raises.


The Utah Democratic Party will have a new executive director starting Monday. Lauren Littlefield will replace Matt Lyon, who is stepping down after four years in the position.

Littlefield said she has her eyes set on getting more Democrats elected in 2016.

“Voter participation in the state is dismal and pathetic at best, and that’s something that I hope to increase, especially on the Democratic side,” Littlefield said. “Something that we want to do is get more people registered to vote by mail. It’s such a great program that most counties in the state are offering now, and it’s something that people should be taking advantage of.”

Littlefield, a Utah native, got her start in Utah politics in 2004 as a field organizer. She has since worked on city council, Senate and House campaigns, and spent three years with Equality Utah.


During his State of the State address to a joint session of the state legislature Wednesday, Gov. Gary Herbert announced his plans to work with educators and officials to create a 10-year education plan for Utah. Herbert claimed that his plan would tie public education money to specific objectives.

Herbert called for an increase in state education funding which, he said, would be the largest such increase in a quarter of a century.

Leaving Auschwitz

Jan 29, 2015

While traveling on a bus back from Auschwitz, Merinda Davis, a middle school teacher from Orem, asked her new Polish friend, Adam, how to pronounce the city they just left.

“It’s the city right next to Auschwitz," Davis said. "It’s where the largest concentration camp and murder site during WWII [was]. We’re just coming back from the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz; the commemoration ceremony."

The ceremony was attended by almost 3,000 people, including living survivors who shared, not the horrific details of their experience, but the importance of peace and tolerance.

Davis told me one of the survivors, a rabbi, moved her at the ceremony when he performed a kaddish - a Jewish hymn of praises to God.

“They had a large tent that covered the famous watch tower in front of Birkenau," Davis said. "We were all inside of this tent. When the rabbi, who is a survivor, was performing a kaddish, standing there in front of that tower that symbolized death for over a million people, I think was really powerful for me.”

The night before the ceremony, Davis attended a reception and spoke personally with the survivors.

On Wednesday, Jan. 28 Gov. Gary Herbert gave the annual State of the State. Among the topics discussed were the economy, population growth, education and air quality.

You can listen to the address below, or read the full transcript here.

inversion capitol
April Ashland / Utah Public Radio

Utah's air quality challenges are among the issues state lawmakers will consider during this year's legislative session. Rep. Patrice Arent is the co-chair and founder of the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus, which is focused on passing legislation that addresses air pollution. She says this session picks up where the last left off.

"It certainly was the case that we passed more legislation last year, and did more in terms of appropriations than we had in my prior 13 sessions combined," she said. "But we need to continue that work. There's still a lot more to do."

A proposal to reintroduce firing squads for Utah executions is stirring fresh debate on the death penalty.

Lethal injection is currently the only permissible option for state executions, but there is some concern that the drugs required to administer lethal injections are becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. State Rep. Paul Ray (R) is the bill's sponsor, and says he wants firing squads to be an alternative option.

The last man to be executed by firing squad in Utah was convicted murderer Ronnie Lee Gardiner in 2010. On Tuesday, Gardner's brother Randy Gardner joined a protest at the state Capitol in opposition to firing squads.

NASA Sends USU-made Probes Into Northern Lights

Jan 29, 2015
rocket launch

A rocket launched yesterday morning with help from Utah State University in partnership with NASA. The Oriole IV rocket blasted off just before 4 a.m. at the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska as part of NASA's Auroral Spatial Structures probe mission.

The rocket's trajectory was aimed for the aurora borealis, better known as the northern lights, in an effort to understand more about solar events and how they affect satellites and other instruments.

In an effort to reach out to the community and provide a space for better understanding, the Provo Police Department held its first ever meeting on Tuesday with the newly-created Civilian Advisory Board. The board was created by the city of Provo to help foster trust between local police and civilians. Those on the board include residents, professors, and representatives of Provo’s Black and Latino communities.

Marriott sister anti-discrimination
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Officials from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have announced the church’s support for legal measures protecting certain rights of LGBT individuals.

In a rare press conference on Tuesday morning, LDS church leaders—including three of the church’s twelve apostles—presented their position as a balance between religious liberty and LGBT rights.

Neill Marriott of the LDS church’s Public Affairs Committee was first to speak. Marriott is one of the leaders of the young women's organization in the church.

Utahns from various backgrounds responded to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ declaration of support for legal measures that would protect LGBT individuals from discrimination—so long as religious liberty was protected.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said the new comments from the LDS Church brought up important issues that lawmakers will have to think long and hard about.

“I think the legislature needs to grapple with this and see if it’s in fact possible to have an anti-discrimination piece of legislation that people will be supportive of,” Herbert said. “I personally believe that if we have anti-discrimination legislation that would be on a statewide basis, it needs to be coupled with religious freedom legislation so that they work in concert with each other, so that there’s no diminution of the rights of either side.”

Utah Trappist Monastery To Close

Jan 27, 2015

The Abbey of the Holy Trinity in Hunstville, Utah, is one of a shrinking number of monasteries left in the nation. The Ogden Valley monastery has been the home to a group of Trappist monks since 1947. The monks who reside there live a life of prayer, meditation and farming. However, the average age of the monks today is now nearing 80 years old and the men of the abbey have decided to find a new purpose for their monastery.

According to Father Brendan Freeman, the Superior of the abbey, the decision was made as fewer men made the choice to take on the Trappist way of life.

“The last one to persevere was in 1980. So, that was quite a few years ago. It’s not a monetary question, it’s vocations,” he said. “There’s no vocations coming in and there’s no way you can make that happen. Can’t buy it. We call it a call from God and it’s just not out there now.”

Jon Kovash / Utah Public Radio

On the Logan main campus, work is underway on a permaculture teaching garden, which will demonstrate alternatives for dealing with storm water in the city. A USU Professor is now doing the same thing in Moab.

Like many Utah towns, Moab struggles to conserve water. There’s still a lot of Kentucky bluegrass, with the sprinkler runoff flowing down the gutters, heavy irrigation for hobby alfalfa farms, aggressive storm drainage, and the city still sells tap water to oil and gas drillers. Enter Dr. Roslynn Brain, USU professor in Sustainable Communities. During the last year Brain has helped launch an effort to build “rain gardens” all over Moab. She says she was inspired by local bee keeper Jerry Shue.

"He had an idea to put in pollinator gardens throughout the town. Then we found out that people with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the BLM, there are individuals throughout the community of Moab who are interested in these concepts. And so we all met together and came up with the idea of collaborating on an initiative to put in bee-inspired gardens. There’s already a strong movement in Moab of gardeners and of sustainability. People seem to understand these concepts," Brain said.

Utah students, parents, and educators will join in a national celebration Jan. 25-31, 2015 to recognize school choice.  Participants in the 2015 National School Choice Week are hoping to encourage communities to look at different ways of helping to educate today's youth.

Early Monday morning Andrew Campanella, President of the non-profit organization National School Choice Week, rang the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchanging to mark the official beginning of the celebration.

Jennifer Pemberton

The opening of the general session of the state legislature sets the tone for the next 45 days.

The tone in the House of Representatives was emotional as Rep. Greg Hughes, R-Draper, was sworn in to the spot vacated by former Speaker Becky Lockhart, who died after a short illness earlier this month.


The Utah Department of Workforce Services released their monthly economic update on Thursday. Utah’s unemployment rate stayed steady in the month of December at 3.5 percent, that’s 2 percent below the national level. Job growth was above average for December at 3.9 percent.

DWS Senior Economist Mark Knold said Utah’s unemployment levels have been holding steady for about a year now, as the state continues to recover from the recession. But he cautions that the low unemployment rate could come at a cost.

Overstock.com announced this week that the online retailer will offer customers a streaming-video service sometime this year.  UPR spoke with company chairman, Jonathan Johnson, about the new service.  Johnson said the company is also planning to extend Overstock products to customers in China.

In February 2014 Overstock.com announced the company would begin accepting bitcoins.  Kerry Bringhurst asked Johnson if the use of  this crypto-currency is growing.

Worldstock Fair Trade Information

Experts Still Hazy About Concussions

Jan 23, 2015
Virginia Department of Health

“It look like Aaron Ward was saying, ‘No, not the time for me to fight you.’ But Walker took advantage, dropped his gloves…” Hockey commentator.

Aaron Ward said, “I remember everything for the hit, I went to the corner, another guy was on my left shoulder and the puck was in the corner  and we were both going in at a pretty good speed and once I got about, maybe four feet from the boards, I felt a little nudge on my back and on my should and I could tell that he was trying to push me into the boards and that’s usually, you know that’s a dirty play, a dirty kind of move. Sometimes it happens so fast the other player doesn’t even know what they’re doing.”

He is the team president for Utah State University’s hockey team. Due to multiple concussions in the beginning of the season, he’s not only sitting out until he recovers, he won’t be returning.

There is very little that experts understand about the brain but they are making, excuse the term, headway. According to Jon Eccles, the head coach, every precaution is being taken to protect athletes who play contact sports.


Utah ranks second among all 50 states and six territories in total toxic chemical releases per square mile, according to new figures released by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The statistics regarding the releases are recorded in the Toxic Release Inventory, or TRI. According to the EPA, the TRI monitors the handling of toxic chemicals that put the environment and human health at risk. Industrial facilities are required to annually report how much toxic chemicals are released, recycled, or treated. The inventory was established by an act of Congress in 1986.

Jennifer Pemberton

If it passes, it would be one of the strictest wood burning bans in the nation. State officials are accepting public comment on a proposed winter burn ban. UPR’s Jennifer Pemberton has this report on the overwhelming opposition expressed at Wednesday night’s public hearing in Logan.

In the simplest terms it’s the right to burn versus the right to breathe. At least that’s how those who oppose and support a seasonal ban on wood burning in Northern Utah are voicing it.

Governor Herbert tasked the state Air Quality Board with probing public opinion on the ban, which would prohibit use of all wood stoves in seven inversion-prone Utah counties from Nov. 1 to March 15 in an effort to limit winter air pollution.

At the public hearing Wednesday night in Logan the opposition was overwhelming. The sheriff’s office estimates there were 500 people trying to attend the hearing in the Cache County Courthouse with a capacity of 160.

State Party Leaders Respond To State Of The Union

Jan 21, 2015

In his sixth annual address, President Barack Obama proposed new initiatives aimed at helping to bolster the American middle class. Among them, Obama suggested lawmakers focus on raising the minimum wage, making available affordable childcare through a $3000 per child per year tax credit, and having the first two years at community colleges across the country be free of charge to those who qualify.

Peter Corroon, Utah’s Democratic Party Chair, said he agrees with the President’s plan to strengthen the nation through the middle class.

Orem Teacher Heads To Auschwitz

Jan 21, 2015
Jewish Virtual Library

Seventy years ago prisoners were liberated from the former German Nazi concentration and death camps. “Auschwitz: The Past is Present,” is a professional development program developed by the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education and Discovery Education. 

The non-profit organization is sponsoring a program to give educators an opportunity to learn more about the capture and release of prisoners there. Merinda Davis is a teacher in Orem and is one of only 25 teachers from around the world to be selected to travel to Poland this week.

I asked Davis why she applied and she told me that when she was 12 she was in the public library and saw a book title, “Six Million.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Health officials in Utah County confirmed a third measles case in Utah over the weekend. They say the case, which was detected in a person under the age of 18 who was not vaccinated, was contracted from a person who had visited Disneyland in December. Forty-eight cases of measles have been linked to the Disneyland outbreak. According to the California Department of Public Health, 41 of the cases occurred in California residents, while the other seven were in people visiting from other states and Mexico.