Utah News

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

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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.

blog.usa.gov

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.”


defense.gov

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.


wsjusa.com / Women's Ski Jumping USA

Deedee Corradini, the only female mayor in the history of Salt Lake City and a past president of Women’s Ski Jumping USA, has passed away at 70 years old.

A statement released by her family on Monday read, “Our amazing mother, wife, sister, aunt, friend and mentor, died today at her home in Park City, surrounded by the light, love and gratitude of her loved ones.”

Corradini’s death comes after a six-month battle with a non-smoking form of lung cancer.

Humane Society Offers Reward After Deer Found Dead

Feb 27, 2015

The Humane Society of Utah is offering a $2,000 reward for information about the killing of a pregnant deer and two fawns that were run down with a car.

In a statement released Thursday, the group said they are looking for information leading to an arrest and conviction of whoever chased the animals through a Box Elder County grain field. The animals were run over on Feb. 14 or 15.

Humane Society Director Deann Shepherd talks about the $2,000 reward.

The fiftieth anniversary of the 1965 civil rights march from Selma is coming up next week. Hoping to gain attention for voting rights, peaceful protesters, in the face of violence, walked 54 miles between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama.

Seth McConnell/The Denver Post/Getty Images

A medical marijuana bill has passed its first test in the Utah State Legislature.

Republican Senator Mark Madsen raised eyebrows at the general legislative session this year when he revealed his intention to sponsor medical marijuana legislation. But Thursday’s hearing in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee was the first time Senate Bill 259 was vetted publicly.

bustos.house.gov

New legislation may require Utah high school students to pass a citizenship test in order to graduate. After receiving approval from the Senate in a vote of 20-8, the bill is in its final stages in the House of Representatives.

Introduced by Sen. Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), the bill would require students to answer 50 questions on American Government and get 75 percent correct before receiving a high school diploma. The test would be similar to a citizenship test, which requires knowledge of principles of American Government, American History and Integrated Civics. However, citizenship tests only require a minimum score of 60 percent.

GOVERNOR'S OFFICE

On Wednesday, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes announced that he is stopping the advancement of the Healthy Utah bill. Hughes’ announcement came hours after Gov. Gary Herbert said he felt optimistic about Healthy Utah, which would provide healthcare coverage to 60,000 to 70,000 Utahns.

The Senate passed the bill in a vote of 21 - 8 on Wednesday. It was then sent to the House Rules Committee, where it was given a favorable recommendation. However, Hughes insisted that there aren’t enough votes among House Republicans to advance it further.

April Ashland

Wednesday morning Gov. Gary Herbert seemed confident that his Medicaid plan, Healthy Utah, would be considered by the Utah State Legislature. Speaking with media, he said the plan had widespread support in the state, including from those in the health and business industries.

“Up and down the state of Utah the public polling shows 60 percent support or more. So the overwhelming support we’re receiving, which has kind of been spontaneous, it’s not anything that I’m orchestrating, but people out there recognize the common sense that we provide with the Healthy Utah approach,” Herbert said. “I hope the legislature is listening, they should represent the people, and we can certainly see where the people are at on this issue. I’m still cautiously optimistic that we will get something done.”

Gov. Herbert Urges Caution On Election Amendment

Feb 25, 2015
upr.org

Part of Republican Gov. Gary Herbert’s Tuesday press conference was dedicated to proposed legislation concerning political party nominations. Sen. Scott Jenkins, a Plain City Republican, put forward a constitutional amendment that would allow parties to choose their own method for primaries.

Herbert said that he would not be opposed to putting the proposal up for a referendum.

“If the people want to vote and say, ‘this is how we want to have our elections,’ and have that kind of choice, I don’t have any problem with putting it to a vote of the people,” he said.

News Service

The formula the federal government uses to measure poverty in the U.S. is outdated and should be modernized to better reflect the true picture of poverty in America. That's the finding of a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Terry Haven with Voices for Utah Children said the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) guidelines, established in the 1960s, only consider the cost of food and none of the other major expenses of raising a family.


Retirement is just around the corner.
Global Action on Aging

The Utah director of a national program for retired adults is working with lawmakers to study a  state-sponsored program that will help residents save for their retirement. Alan Ormsby is Utah director of the American Association of Retired Persons.  He said more than half of working people in Utah don't have a financial plan for when they retire.


kirk.senate.gov

A “right to try” bill that would allow terminally ill patients to use experimental medication has taken another step forward in the Utah State Legislature.    

House bill 94 met the approval of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday. Sponsored by Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville, the bill previously passed the House overwhelmingly by a 72-1 vote.

usda.gov

Efforts by public land managers to reduce wildfire risk continue in Southern Utah. Considerable accumulations of excess woody materials have been gathered together in slash piles in a fire-prone area just south of Beaver.  It’s now the best time of year to extinguish what would otherwise be fuel for summertime, potentially catastrophic wildfires.

NASA

Kent Rominger is being inducted into the 2015 U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 30. Though he has hung up his spacesuit, he hasn’t left the industry. He is now the vice president of strategy and development at Orbital ATK. He said Utah is crucial to space exploration.

“Utah is very important," Rominger said. "It goes back all the way to when the space shuttle was being developed and they were looking at boosters at, ‘How do we get 250 thousand pounds,’ that being the space shuttle, 'Put into orbit?’ Which is a very big payload.”

Utah entered the space program in 1973 when Morton-Thiokol, out of Brigham City, was chosen to develop the solid rocket motors that would propel the shuttle into space.


Costs Of Oil: Cheaper Gas, Worse Air Quality?

Feb 21, 2015
Utah State University Old Main Webcam

As gasoline prices dipped below the two dollar mark and stayed there, it got us wondering: Do people drive more when gas is cheap? And in turn, could these lower prices be contributing to our air quality woes?

Along with powdery snow and red rocks, in recent years Utah has also become known for thick valley inversions in the winter months. Cars are a big contributor to those inversions and in Cache Valley less than one tenth of vehicles in the area emit 25 to 50 percent of all the chemicals contributed by cars that lead to unhealthy inversions. 

ontheissues.org

Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee has been one of the leading voices in the Tea Party movement since he was first elected to the Senate in 2010. His views on a range of issues have often placed him to the right of most of his congressional colleagues. Now, Lee has been rated as the most conservative member of the 113th Senate in a study from Utah Data Points.

The study looks at each senator and assigns each of them a score, with one being the most conservative and negative one being the most liberal. According to Michael Barber, a Brigham Young University political science professor from Utah Data Points, the score is a comparison of senatorial voting records.

“It’s purely based on the vote that legislators cast in office. The comparisons are all just really based on comparing legislators to other legislators,” Barber said. “There isn’t necessarily an absolute standard of what is or is not moderate or liberal or conservative.”

This year, the Utah State University Athletics Department’s slogan is “the climb.” While administrators were probably thinking about athlete performance, their scores and stats aren’t the only thing climbing.

Since 2008, the USU student athletic fee has increase by 311 percent. At this point, the department receives more than $4 million in revenues every year from student fees alone. Yet despite this, they are still claiming a deficit of almost half a million dollars. That’s according to the 2013/2014 USU Appropriated Budget.

The athletics department is requesting $1.5 million from the state legislature this year.

A rural town in Southern Utah has, at least temporarily, lost the area's only police officer.  Escalante Mayor Jerry Taylor confirmed Thursday that Police Chief Kevin Worlton has been placed on administrative leave with pay as of Jan. 12.

The Utah Attorney General's Office is conducting an unspecified investigation involving Worlton.  Taylor said he doesn't know why Worlton is under investigation. Garfield County sheriff's deputies are policing the town during the investigation.

Hatch: Hill AFB Test Range Must Expand

Feb 19, 2015
hatch.senate.gov

Republican U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch spoke to the state Senate Thursday to address national issues that could have some effect on Utah. Aside from   commenting on the ongoing friction between the federal government and the state over the Affordable Care Act, Hatch also touched on the Utah Test and Training Range at Hill Air Force Base.

Hatch said that the test range should be updated in response to new Air Force technology. In order to keep the base in Utah and the jobs connected with it, he said, lawmakers must find a way to enlarge the test range.

Costs Of Oil: Will Alternative Fuels Take A Hit?

Feb 19, 2015
energy.utah.gov

What I assumed to be an pretty straightforward question—how does A affect B, how does the cost of one thing affect the allure of another— turned out to not have a straightforward answer in terms of the price of oil and the alternative fuel market. 

 

In search of answers, I spoke with energy market analysts, trade association representatives, lobbyists, people within government organizations and basically anyone else paid to know about oil prices and their effect on alternative fuel. 

upr.org

Kearns Republican Rep. Eric Hutchings and Layton Republican Sen. Stuart Adams offered a bill to the state legislature Wednesday that would reform Utah’s prison sentencing. The proposal is based on advice given by the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Under the bill, low-level offenders would be diverted from prison to alternative, community-based rehabilitation options.

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