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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.

This week, Congress returns with House leaders vowing to revisit the anti-abortion bill they pulled off the floor last week. The ban on abortions after 20 weeks was withdrawn when it appeared there weren't enough Republican votes to pass it.

Why did it need quite so many Republican votes? Because the GOP can no longer count on a contingent of Democrats to help out on abortion-related votes.

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
aauw.org

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.

The Justice Department is poised to declare that former police officer Darren Wilson should not face civil rights charges over the death of Michael Brown, law enforcement sources tell NPR. Wilson, who is white, shot and killed Brown, who was black, in August. Brown was not armed.

"Two law enforcement sources tell NPR they see no way forward to file criminal civil rights charges" against Wilson, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports. She adds, "Those charges would require authorities to prove the officer used excessive force and violated Brown's constitutional rights."

Facing a Republican-controlled Congress in his sixth State of the Union speech, President Obama took credit Tuesday for an improving economy and focused on proposals aimed at advancing the middle class.

After years of recession and war, Obama claimed "the shadow of crisis has passed." In its place, he asserted, is a future marked by "a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production."

Here's what Obama proposed on the policy front:

Economy

In so many ways, Jan. 20, 2009, was a frightful day to be taking the oath of office.

The U.S. economy was in free fall as Barack Obama rose to deliver his inaugural address. "We are in the midst of crisis," he said. "Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered."

Exactly six years later, Obama is returning to Capitol Hill to deliver a State of the Union address at 9 p.m. EST. He is expected to highlight the economic progress that has been made since that frigid Day One — and call for more changes.

graph
utahpolicy.com

As the Republican-controlled Congress begins work in Washington D.C., a new poll shows the issues Utahns want legislators to focus on this session.

The poll, commissioned by UtahPolicy.com, found that federal debt is the top issue for people in Utah. UtahPolicy.com Managing Editor Bryan Schott said the result was anticipated.

Logan Mayor Pushes For More Green Energy

Jan 7, 2015

On Tuesday, the Logan City Council met for the first time this year to hear Mayor Craig Petersen deliver his State of the City address. This year’s speech was the first under Petersen, who highlighted various city projects completed during 2014 and shared his aspirations for the coming year. Green energy production featured prominently in those aspirations.

Petersen announced that a deal was struck to use the excess heat from natural gas pipelines to generate electricity. Obtaining electricity this way will put that excess heat to good use, he said.

Box Elder Sheriff Dies Day After Swear-In

Jan 7, 2015
Sheriff Joseph "Lynn" Yeates
facebook.com

Box Elder County Sheriff Joseph “Lynn” Yeates passed away Tuesday morning, only a day after he was sworn into office for what would be his third term.

The county clerk and attorney are currently reviewing the vacancy with the County Republican Central Committee. The County Commissioner’s Office said Chief Deputy Kevin Potter is maintaining the position as interim sheriff, and will do so for the next month. Box Elder County Commissioner Jeff Scott said the reason for the delay is the state statute concerning the office of sheriff.

In a move to cement their party's fiscal ideology, Republicans used the first vote of the new Congress to change the rules for estimating the economic consequences of major legislation.

Sean Reyes Sworn In After Year As Interim AG

Jan 5, 2015
attorneygeneral.utah.gov

After a year as Utah's interim attorney general, Sean Reyes (R) was sworn in as the state’s top law enforcement officer Monday morning at the Capitol.

Reyes, Utah’s 21st attorney general, was chosen to replace former Attorney General John Swallow, who resigned in November 2013 and is now facing charges including bribery and tampering with evidence. Swallow’s predecessor Mark Shurtleff is also facing charges.

Mia Love Defends Steve Scalise In Statements

Jan 5, 2015
religionandpolitics.org

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) remains in hot water over allegations he spoke to a white supremacist group 12 years ago. Scalise has admitted to speaking at a conference run by the European-Americans for Unity and Rights Organization, a group established by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. However, some continue to come to his defense, including Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is currently Louisiana’s sole Democratic Party representative and is black. 

Now Rep. Mia Love (R) of Utah’s fourth Congressional district has weighed in on the controversy. Speaking on ABC’s program This Week on Sunday, Love said that Scalise should not be defined by this event. 

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Jeb Bush, the former Republican governor of Florida and the brother and son of two former U.S. presidents, has essentially kicked off the 2016 presidential campaign with a pre-announcement announcement on Facebook.

Saying he had conversations with his family about the future of the country, Bush said he had decided to "actively explore" a presidential run.

He went on:

For two decades Atlanta restaurant owner Jim Dunn offered a group health plan to his managers and helped pay for it. That ended Dec. 1, after the Affordable Care Act made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

Subsidies under the health law for workers to buy their own coverage combined with years of rising costs in the company plan made dropping the plan an obvious — though not easy — choice.

A government-appointed group of top nutrition experts, assigned to lay the scientific groundwork for a new version of the nation's dietary guidelines, decided earlier this year to collect data on the environmental implication of different food choices.

Congress now has slapped them down.

Taking On Racial Profiling With Data

Dec 14, 2014
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

One year ago, social psychologist Philip Atiba Goff started an unprecedented project to create a national database on racial profiling.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Utah Department of Health

Thursday, after months of anticipation, Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled the details of the Healthy Utah plan, his alternative to expanding Medicaid in the state. The plan, which would have to be approved by the state legislature, would help 95,000 Utahns who make $15,521 a year or less; 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Herbert worked with officials from the federal government to come up with the privatized plan, one of five plans state lawmakers will consider adopting. Health Department Chief Executive David Patton said that unlike any other states, Herbert won concessions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Those include co-pays for low-income residents seeking medical services and increasing the co-pay for non-emergency visits to the ER from $8 to $50.

A senior Utah senator is demanding the Obama administration provide Congress with records detailing the payment of Social Security benefits to suspected Nazi war criminals.

In letters released publicly on Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah cited an Associated Press investigation published in October that revealed millions of dollars in benefits have been paid to dozens of former Nazis living outside of the United States.

utah.gov

A new 800-page study released by the Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office argues that Utah could afford the management costs that would come with acquiring the more than 30 million acres of public lands the state has been hoping to gain control of.

Governor Gary Herbert, along with other Utah lawmakers, has been pushing the Federal Government to hand over ownership of the property, which makes up more than half of the land in the state. A bill passed in 2012 cited the 1894 Enabling Act and demanded the federal Government hand over the land by 2015.

Same-sex marriage
usa.gov

An order signed Monday by U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball means the state will pay attorneys’ fees for the eight plaintiffs in the Evans v. Utah case, which addressed the legal status of couples wed following the initial ruling that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.  

The plaintiffs’ attorneys were seeking nearly $200,000 for their services. However, after an agreement was reached on the fee issue, the state will pay $95,000 to the attorneys.


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