Utah News

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

Though Utah lawmakers already passed a comprehensive Medicaid reform bill last year, more reforms are on the way. This comes after the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rejected a substantial portion of last year's reforms from the state, which had submitted a waiver. KCPW's Jessica Gail reports on how that frustrates one state representative.

Each year over 40,000 people flock to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival. With so many movie goers vying for tickets, it can be difficult to see anything.

Steven Smith is UPR's man-on-the-street at Sundance; he lives in Logan most of the year but volunteers in Park City during the festival. He shares with Kerry Bringhurst and our listeners several options for things to do at Sundance if you don't manage to get tickets to a film.

TOOELE, Utah-- Utah's massive chemical weapons stockpile is gone and so is the federal funding that helped pay for the sophisticated emergency response centers. 

Listen the response from Utah Senator Mike Lee, recorded shortly after President Obama delivered his State of the Union Address.

President Obama’s State of the Union address last night touched on some themes that could please some of Utah’s elected officials in Washington, like expanding domestic energy access. But do they think he has the track record to get it done? KCPW’s Jeff Robinson talked with one of them, Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson, to get his reaction to the address last night. He began by asking the lawmaker if he heard the president put forward any new initiatives for improving the economy.

After a one year trial period, it appears Utah residents could be in for a quieter July. Tuesday, the legislature’s House Business and Labor Committee voted unanimously to cut the state’s fireworks period in half, limiting the days and hours they would be allowed. KCPW’s Jessica Gail reports on the reasons behind the new legislation, and what aspects of last year’s fireworks changes will stick.

Laws that regulate hookahs, electronic cigarettes and nicotine lozenges and gum could all be tightened under proposals being considered by Utah legislators.  Kerry Bringhurst tells us a few of the ways that legislators are seeking to regulate smoking and tobacco products in the state during the current legislative session.

Southern Utah University is to recieve the largest gift ever bestowed on the Cedar City institution. UPR's Chris Holmes describes the multi-million-dollar gift from Walter Gibson that will go to fund a new science center.

The fate of a proposed nuclear power plant in Utah’s Emery County is now in the hands of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, following the state’s approval of two water rights applications for the Blue Castle Holdings project on the Green River. Although some environmental and citizens’ groups have been swift to condemn that decision, Utah State Engineer Kent Jones with the Division of Water Rights says they had to be approved under law if certain criteria were met. So what went into the decision to approve the requests after they were submitted more than two years ago?

If the first day of the 2012 legislative session is any indicator, it appears lawmakers intend to keep their word to make education a top priority. Yesterday, a bill that would limit class sizes in Kindergarten through 3rd grade passed unanimously out of committee despite concerns the money should be spent elsewhere. KCPW’s Jessica Gail reports on what the bill could mean for Utah’s schools.

Utah Democrats are paying a $5,000 fee to obtain legislative records related to the state's redistricting process. Party Chairman Jim Dabakis says the records are needed to determine whether the party can file a lawsuit seeking to overturn the election maps approved in October.

Dabakis says the state shouldn't be charging fees for public records.

Utah lawmakers will be focusing heavily on budget issues and education funding as they begin their 2012 General Session. Republican Senate President Michael Waddoups says the session will have an optimistic tone because Utah's economy is growing. Waddoups says a $200 million surplus means state agencies will not be facing cuts and employees could even get small raises.

During the first weeks of the session, legislators could approve agency budgets at last year's funding levels and even provide additional money for student growth in public education.

While both Republicans and Democrats agree that education should be a top priority, there is disagreement about pay for higher education faculty. Neil Abercrombie, Director of Government Relations for Utah State University, explained the discrepancy to UPR today at the opening of the Utah State Legislative Session.

The Utah Public Radio news team spent the opening day of the Utah Legislative Session at the State Capitol, talking to Senators and Representatives about the issues that matter to our listeners. Get ready for some great reporting today and for the next 45 days.

From Cache County in the north to Washington County in southern Utah, $44 million in federal money is headed to the beehive state to help with watershed protection.

The grant money comes from the USDA’s natural resource conservation service.  Much of the work is to repair damage to roads, water systems and other infrastructure caused by flooding over the past two years.

The emergency watershed protection program was set up by congress to respond to emergencies created by natural disasters.

"Massage" now a broader term for businesses

Jan 20, 2012

At the end of this month, any Utah business that offers light touch or stroking of the body as a service without a massage license could be in violation of state law. As KCPW’s Whittney Evans reports, the new rule enacted by the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing broadens the term “massage,” which some local business owners say goes too far.

Democratic lawmakers from the House and Senate have introduced an initiative they say will improved public education in Utah. Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck talks to Kerry Bringhurst about the "Best Schools" initiative.

Living with Fracking

Jan 20, 2012

Science Questions takes you into the lives of Pennsylvania residents who are personally being impacted by drilling for highly profitable natural gas and what scientists are saying about the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, gaining attention across the nation.

Poet remembers growing up in internment camp

Jan 20, 2012

Over 100,000 people were placed in  ten remote internment camps during WW2.

They were not charged, and not convicted and yet many served time in prison camps with barbed wire and armed guards.

Lawson Inada, Oregon Poet Laureate (2006-2010) was 4 years old when his family was relocated to a camp in Arkansas.

Inada is coming to speak this weekend about his experience in internment camps.

The U.S. Army has destroyed about 90 percent of its aging chemical weapons, from the desert chemical depot.

Wednesday just after 2 p.m. the last of the hard weapons were burned in a 1,500 degree furnace. A tray of 23 projectiles came out of the furnace at 2:11 p.m.

At its peak, the desert chemical depot held some 13,600 tons of chemical agents, making it the world's largest.

The entire project will be complete by the weekend when the depot will incinerate bulk supplies of Lewisite, a powerful skin, eye and lung irritant.

Bike, pedestrian trail system in the works in Moab

Jan 20, 2012

The federal government this week awarded 2.5-million dollars for recreational development in north Moab.

UPR’s Moab correspondent Vicki Barker reports:

The old Lions Club Park at the Colorado River bridge can now develop into a sophisticated recreational use area.

With a grant announced this week from the Federal Transit Aministration, a multi-agency committee in Moab will proceed with a bike-and-pedestrian trail system. It will link parks, recreation areas and the river, to Moab.

 

USDA is closing 43 offices throughout US that helps rural Americans get affordable mortgages. 

This is a great concern in Utah, although no offices in Utah will be closed.  The program in Utah that deals with self help housing is called Neighborhood Nonprofit Housing Association. 

"We don't have many offices in Utah, and the ones we do have cover a wide area," said Kim Datwyler, executive director

Utah offices for NNHA cover from Provo and Vernal north, she said.

The latest news on the winter storm sweeping across the Rockies and bringing significant snowfall and flooding to Utah.

Utah faces a shortage of affordable housing for low-income households, but the Olene Walker Housing Fund has managed to help keep thousands of Utahns from being homeless. The Fund has also managed to keep off the federal housing cuts chopping block. Gordon Walker, State Director Housing and Community Development discussed the Olene Walker Fund at an affordable housing press conference yesterday.

Serious State Discussions for Sage Grouse Habitat

Jan 19, 2012

A scoping meeting to discuss preserving, conserving and restoring sagebrush habitat for the greater sage grouse was held Wednesday in Vernal. UPR's Ranae Bangerter tells us there will be 26 meetings to discuss the bird's habitat during the next two weeks.

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