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News Brief: 2020 Race, Report Cards and Roads Cost

Photo of students raising their hands in a classroom.
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The Utah State Board of Education released report cards for public schools across the state on Thursday.

Thursday evening, January 2, 2020

STATE

2020 Governor’s Race Officially Starts

Former Utah Republican Party Chair Thomas Wright is jumping into the governor’s race, joining five other Republican candidates. Wright says he’s the best pick for governor because he has political connections, but since he’s never held elected office he will bring a fresh perspective. Thursday was the official start of the 2020 campaign season. It was the first day for candidates to file their intent to gather signatures. Candidates for governor need 28,000 signatures, or to be nominated at the party’s state convention, to get on the primary ballot. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

BLM State Director Retiring

Ed Roberson, the Utah state director for the Bureau of Land Management, will retire Friday after nearly four years in the position and four decades with the agency, the BLM announced Thursday. Associate State Director Anita Bilbao will assume his duties until the BLM finds a permanent replacement. Harry Barber will lead the agency’s new Paria River District office, which combines land managed by the Kanab Field Office and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The district was created following President Donald Trump’s resizing of the monument in 2017. — David Fuchs

State Releases School Report Cards 

The Utah State Board of Education released report cards for Utah schools on Thursday after ensuring that last year’s standardized test results were accurate enough to publish. The concern came from several reports of computer glitches that affected test takers from third through fifth grade. The board said that some schools and students may have been negatively affected and is asking the Utah Legislature to consider whether publishing letter grades in the report is appropriate. For more information, visit https://utahschoolgrades.schools.utah.gov/Rocio Hernandez

Utah GOP Settles Lawsuit 

The Utah Republican Party has settled a federal lawsuit that claimed the party violated the Americans with Disabilities Act during the 2016 election. The suit, which was brought by a disability rights group, said a woman who uses a wheelchair could not participate in a standing vote during the state convention while a man who is deaf was not provided with a sign language interpreter during a caucus meeting. As part of the settlement, the Utah Republican Party has changed its bylaws to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and paid an undisclosed amount to help pay for the plaintiff’s attorneys fees. — Sonja Hutson

SOUTHERN UTAH

Mine Extension

Officials with the Lisbon Valley Mine are seeking permits for an acid-based extraction method, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. The method involves pumping diluted sulfuric acid underground northeast of Monticello. Officials say the new process could extend the mine's lifespan for at least another 25 years. Environmentalists have raised concerns about long-term water contamination for nearby residents, who rely on groundwater for drinking and livestock. —Wire and staff reports

Navajo Roads Cost

The Navajo Nation Division of Transportation has reported it would take 116 years and $7.9 billion to meet its current infrastructure needs. According to the Gallup Independent, transportation officials reported the figures as part of a $320 million bonding plan drafted to fund bridges, pavement preservation projects and earth road improvements. —Wire and staff reports

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