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News Brief: Rural Votes, A New Ag Commissioner & HIV In Utah

the wedge overlook at the san rafael swell. / desertsolitaire

Wednesday morning, Jan. 15, 2020


Utah’s HIV Epidemic

The Utah Department of Health says there is an HIV epidemic in Utah. There are roughly 120 new cases every year, but 75% of Utahns have not been tested. Medication is available that prevents the spread of the disease. For vulnerable communities who don’t have health insurance, free resources are available for testing and medication. — Grace Osusky

Interim Ag Commissioner Named

Kelly Pehrson has been named interim manager of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. Gov. Gary Herbert made the appointment Tuesday to immediately fill the position vacated by Kerry Gibson, who announced he'll run for Utah’s First Congressional district. Pehrson was appointed as deputy director in 2019. He was formerly the city manager in Monticello and the chief administrative officer for San Juan County.— Diane Maggipinto

Southern Utah

Rural Votes

A Utah-based nonprofit that’s registered thousands of voters on the Navajo Nation in San Juan County is expanding its reach into Arizona for the 2020 election. The group announced the news at a Navajo Nation government meeting in Window Rock on Tuesday. Executive director Drew Cooper said The Rural Utah Project will continue registering voters in Utah’s San Juan County, and is helping with census recruitment there, as well. — Kate Groetzinger

Curtis On Uranium Mill Layoffs

Changes in the global uranium market have brought 30% layoffs to a mill in southern Utah. Tuesday, Utah Rep. John Curtis spoke before the U.S. House in support of the employees at White Mesa Mill in Blanding. He said the facility is the largest private employer in San Juan County, and that he was “committed to creating new economic opportunities in rural areas.” — Diane Maggipinto

Northern Utah

Hearing On Offensive License Plate

Utah lawmakers want to know how a license plate with the phrase "DEPORTM" got approved despite state rules against expressing contempt for any race, religion or political opinion on vanity plates. Lawmakers are expected to question the head of the Division of Motor Vehicles at a hearing Wednesday. It comes after the vanity plate got attention when a troubled commuter posted a photo of it online. — Diane Maggipinto

Lawsuit Against LDS Church May Be Dropped

A woman who accused The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of covering for a former missionary leader who she says raped her in the 1980s said she may drop her lawsuit against the LDS Church. At a court hearing Tuesday, McKenna Denson said she still doesn't have an attorney and may no longer want to secure one. A magistrate judge gave her two weeks to make a decision. — Associated Press


Interior’s (Lack Of) Response To Public Comments

Under the Trump Administration, the Department of Interior has largely ignored public comment on proposed rule changes. That’s according to an analysis from the Center for Western Priorities. It showed that while more than 95% of public comments were opposed to the changes, the Department of Interior moved forward on the vast majority. The group says this proves the department is pushing to give industry a stronger voice. The Department of Interior did not respond to a request for comment. — Noah Glick, Mountain West News Bureau

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