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News Brief: Gun Violence Activism, Layoffs In Blanding & Snow Pack On Track

Photo of student speaking at a podium with several students standing behind him.
Jessica Lowell
/
KUER
Members of the student activist group March for Our Lives Utah on Wednesday unveiled the "grades" they gave Utah lawmakers for their work on gun reform legislation.

Wednesday evening, Jan. 15, 2020

NATION

Romney On Trade With China

A bill co-sponsored by Utah Sen. Mitt Romney passed the Senate. It requires the U.S. partner with allies to figure out a unified approach to China. In a release, Romney said the rise of China threatens America’s values of freedom, human rights and free enterprise. Romney also came out in support Wednesday of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade deal — the agreement that would replace NAFTA. He voted in favor of the deal at the committee level. — Caroline Ballard

Stewart’s “Suicide Prevention Act”

Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart introduced the Suicide Prevention Act Wednesday. It’s a bi-partisan effort to reverse the national trend of suicide death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Utah has the sixth highest suicide rate in the nation. The bill would fund expanded surveillance of suicide attempts to identify trends early and to intervene. The bill also aims to establish self-harm and suicide prevention efforts in hospital emergency rooms. — Grace Osusky

STATE

Improved Juvenile Justice

About a year after major reforms to Utah’s juvenile justice system, early indications show the state is detaining fewer kids and reducing staffing inefficiencies. Officials say they’ve seen the average risk of recidivism drop by 31%, though there is still room for improvement. Read the full storyJon Reed

Offensive License Plate

Personalized license plates that spark multiple complaints will get extra scrutiny in Utah. The move comes amid questions about how a plate with the phrase “DEPORTM” could be on the road despite strict state rules and previous objections. Officials say that if more than one person reports a particular plate, it will be flagged for extra attention and reviewed by the attorney general's office. Most states restrict what can appear on license plates. Lawmakers took up the issue Wednesday. — Associated Press

SOUTHERN UTAH

Blanding Layoffs

A uranium-producing company with operations in Utah recently laid off 24 employees in San Juan County. Energy Fuels is one of the largest private employers in the county. It operates a uranium mine near La Sal and the White Mesa Mill, which processes uranium and other radioactive materials, just south of Blanding. The company laid off 12 employees at each facility in the past two weeks, citing decreasing demand for domestic uranium. Two years ago Energy Fuels asked the federal government to impose a buy-domestic quota for nuclear energy producers. Instead, the Trump administration formed a working group to study the matter. In December, Bloomberg News reported the group had recommended the federal government buy more domestic uranium. But that has yet to happen. The company says there are no plans for further layoffs at this time. — Kate Groetzinger, Blanding

NORTHERN UTAH

Utah Students Demand Action On Gun Violence

During a press conference Wednesday, teens from Utah’s March For Our Lives presented their grades for state Legislators. They were based on voting records on gun reform bills during the 2019 session. Only 30% received a “passing grade,” which the organization defined as either an A or B. According to the Centers for Disease Control, firearms are the leading cause of death for Utah teens and children, and the rate of gun deaths in Utah increased by 45% from 2008 to 2017. — Jessica Lowell

REGION

Snow Pack On Track

It was a dry start to the year for some mountain ranges in the region, but recent storms brought most Mountain West snowpack levels back to normal. We need to keep an eye on snowpack because it can help certain critters like fish. Healthy levels also decrease the chance of seasonal wildfires when paired with good weather.— Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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