Julia Ritchey | KUER 90.1

Julia Ritchey

MANAGING EDITOR

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her three regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she continues to preach the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. 

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Utah lawmakers are acting with a renewed sense of urgency following the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida. At least two new proposals to prevent gun violence are being floated at the Legislature.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

Bipartisan measures aimed at making sure the state is getting its fair share from the federal government sailed through the Legislature this week.

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Nothing in this world is certain but death and taxes, and legislators are tackling both in Week 5 of the session. This week we talk with reporter Whittney Evans about some surprise backers of a new death penalty repeal effort. We also look at the state's big budget surplus and try to divine what lawmakers might do with all that extra scratch. The Utah Legislature's bluest member Sen. Jim Dabakis announces he's done after this session, joining several other incumbents on their way out the door, like Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, our featured guest on 'Better Know a Lawmaker.'

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Gov. Gary Herbert has ordered a state review of protocols regarding school lockdowns following the Parkland, Fla., mass shooting, but is not proposing any new legislation to stem gun violence — pointing instead to societal factors that could be to blame.

Austen Diamond / KUER

The Utah Legislature is losing one of the most vocal and outspoken members of its minority caucus. Democratic Sen. Jim Dabakis announced Tuesday he won’t seek re-election at the end of his term this year.

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This week lawmakers paused to honor the 17 lives lost in a school shooting in Parkland, Fla. But the latest school violence is unlikely to persuade Republican leaders to propose any big changes to gun laws this session. Meanwhile, a committee finally approved something close to a resolution acknowledging climate change without actually using the phrase "climate change." We also talk about some air quality bills and medical marijuana. Rep. Steve Eliason joins us on 'Better Know A Lawmaker' and explains how he's tackling Utah's youth suicide problem. 

Julia Ritchey / KUER

Utah lawmakers aren’t poised to make any sweeping changes to gun laws in the wake of another fatal school shooting in the U.S.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

Utah is one step closer to sending a new statue to Washington, D.C., to display at the U.S. Capitol. The Utah House on Wednesday agreed to send a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon, the nation’s first female state senator.

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Every legislative session a few bills pop up that generate a lot of buzz, but never quite make it to the finish line. For the last few years, that has been the case with proposed legislation to toughen the state's penalties for hate crimes. So what invisible forces propel some bills while squashing others? Some critics say it's the Mormon Church, whose membership includes almost 90 percent of the Utah Legislature. Others say their influence is overstated. And then there's Steve Urquhart, a former Republican state senator from St. George, who observed this phenomenon firsthand.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

Utah has historically had one of the largest gender wage gaps in the country, but a bill that would’ve researched wage disparities among state employees faced a chilly reception from male lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

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A House bill to allow the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to grow cannabis for medical and research purposes passed by the narrowest of margins Tuesday.

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Tesla’s Model S is the top selling electric vehicle in the U.S., but Utahns hoping to get their hands on one have been out of luck thanks to an obscure state law. That's why a Utah lawmaker is bringing back a bill that would allow the California-based automaker to sell its cars directly.

Austen Diamond / KUER

The Utah House of Representatives is reinforcing a key provision of Utah’s "Stand Your Ground” law, the controversial statute that allows armed individuals to use lethal force in self-defense.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

A bill that would have stiffened penalties for people who fail to call 911 in an emergency failed in the House on Monday after a lengthy debate.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

Friends and family gathered on Saturday to remember a giant of Utah philanthropy and business, Jon Huntsman Sr., who died Feb. 2 at the age of 80. 

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Happy Winter Olympics! Utah misses you so. That's why lawmakers are eager to win them back by 2026 or 2030 — they've even passed a resolution that says as much. But who can think of the cold when things are heating up on Capitol Hill? The halls are feeling warmer than usual after a bombshell report by a British tabloid that a Republican state lawmaker paid for sex with an escort. That lawmaker, former Rep. Jon Stanard of St. George, resigned unexpectedly this week, just before the report came out. The fallout from the scandal continues to reverberate as the state carries on an investigation into his use of taxpayer money to carry out the alleged affair. Meanwhile, lots of bills continue forward.   

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Legislation affirming the right of mothers to breastfeed in public is moving forward — even over the objections of some squeamish male lawmakers.

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Utah lawmakers are once again weighing whether to eliminate the state's sales tax on food items — and the author behind the legislation is urging his colleagues to get on board. 

Rob Porter, a top White House aide and former chief of staff to Sen. Orrin Hatch, has resigned after allegations of spousal abuse.

Austen Diamond / KUER

Sen. Wayne Harper, R-Taylorsville, believes technology, cars and lifestyles are changing rapidly, and the state needs to adapt if it wants to keep up.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

Imagine a Coleman’s size cooler — the big one typically taken on a camping trip. Now imagine that cooler with six wheels, a brake light and traveling down a sidewalk without a human operator.

Renee Bright / KUER

It's week 2 at the Utah Legislature and we've already seen several big bills make their way through the House and Senate. On this week's episode, we discuss a few bills in direct conflict with two citizen-led ballot initiatives making their way to voters this fall. We're calling them "Ballot Busters." We also invite a lobbyist to lunch to find out how he wins friends and influences people. And, we try to figure out whether Democrats are becoming the party of "Law & Order" with several proposals to stiffen penalties for crimes. 

Julia Ritchey

The Utah Legislature is honoring former Chief Justice Christine Durham, who retired last fall after nearly four decades on the bench.

 

Austen Diamond

Automatic voter registration is gaining traction in statehouses across the country. A bill making its way through the legislature could make it a reality in Utah. 

Austen Diamond / KUER

Lawmakers have tried and failed in the past to create a state earned income tax credit for Utah’s working poor, but a new effort underway is gaining traction in the statehouse.  

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Unified Police Sgt. Chad Reyes remembers the July day of last year when he lost his K9 partner, Dingo.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

A Utah lawmaker wants to broaden the definition of "first responder" in death penalty cases — a move that could prompt a major court challenge.

Austen Diamond / KUER

Utah’s suicide hotlines receive nearly 10,000 calls each year from people in crisis, but not all are staffed 24/7. That’s why lawmakers are pushing new legislation to keep those lines open and staffed. 

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The gavel has fallen and the Utah Legislature is officially in session! This week we dissect opening speeches by Gov. Gary Herbert and House Speaker Greg Hughes, then Speaker Hughes will also join us later in the episode for our “Better Know a Lawmaker” segment. To wrap it up, we'll sprint through some of the bills that have started to gain momentum on the hill.

Julia Ritchey / KUER

House Speaker Greg Hughes hinted at “big changes” to transportation this year, and those changes appeared Thursday morning in the form of a 113-page draft bill from the state’s Transportation Governance Task Force.  

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