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AM News Brief: Distracted Driving Bill, Utah Prison Staffing & Herbert On Romney Censure

Photo of person texting and driving.
A bill to crack down on distracted driving passed a state House committee Friday. This story and more in the Monday morning news brief.

Monday morning, Feb. 10, 2020


Herbert On Romney

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said he doesn't support a state lawmaker's push to censure U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney over his vote to convict in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. Herbert said Romney voted with his conscience after hearing all the evidence and his decision does not warrant censure as proposed by state Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding. The position signals a roadblock for the effort to rebuke Romney amid a wave of Republican anger directed at the party's former presidential nominee. Legislative leaders have said a separate effort to create a way to recall a U.S. senator would likely be unconstitutional. — Diane Maggipinto

Distracted Driving

A bill to crack down on distracted driving passed a state House committee Friday. It aims to make an existing law more enforceable by instituting a “one swipe or tap” rule which says that drivers can swipe their phone to answer it and tap a button to activate Siri or other digital personal assistants. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration. — Sonja Hutson

Raw Milk

Utahns might be able to legally purchase some raw milk products under a bill that passed its first major hurdle in the legislature Friday. Republican Rep. Kim Coleman is sponsoring the bill, which passed unanimously in the House Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee. She says the sale and distribution of raw milk, butter and cream has the approval of the Farm Bureau. Coleman sponsored a similar bill last year that passed the House but failed on the Senate floor. — Jessica Lowell

Utah Prison Staffing

The worker shortage at Utah State Prison is making for dire conditions and mandatory overtime for those employed in the system. That's according to ex-lawmaker Chad Bennion, who now heads the Fraternal Order of Police. More than a third of the 500-plus positions in Draper are vacant, forcing officials to bus corrections officers from Gunnison to the Point of the Mountain twice a day. Bennion and the corrections department are asking lawmakers to pay for a multi-year compensation plan to help recruit workers. — Associated Press

Southern Utah

Bluff Fracking Vote

The Bluff town council is opposing an application to drill for oil and gas on public land above its aquifer. But that could hurt the town’s application for a grant to buy a new town hall. Read the full story. Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

“Do It Like A Local” In Moab

Moab officials have launched a marketing campaign that aims to blunt the negative effects of the millions of visitors who swing through every year. The "Do It Like a Local" campaign is meant to educate visitors on ways to practice sustainable tourism that is good for the environment and respectful of Moab's year-round residents. The city in Grand County has a population of 5,000 and gets about 3 million visitors a year. — Associated Press

Northern Utah

Officer Shot

A Salt Lake City police officer was hit by gunfire while responding to what appears to be a pre-dawn homicide. Detective Greg Wilking said officers arrived at 3:30 a.m. Monday morning to an apartment in the 300 East 200 South area and guns were fired. He also reported a deceased female. The suspect was in the building, then fled and was captured a couple of blocks away. Wilking says the Salt Lake officer was hit in the lower body and taken to hospital for treatment. Unified Police is leading the investigation. — Diane Maggipinto

Little Cottonwood Canyon Open

Little Cottonwood Canyon Road opened over the weekend after being off-limits to the public since Thursday. Multiple snow slides forced interlodge, where visitors to Snowbird and Alta along with employees were required to stay indoors until Saturday. An Alta spokeswoman said she couldn't recall the last time the area was locked down for two days. — Diane Maggipinto


Private Prison Bill

As the nation and our region debates the merits of private prisons, Colorado is considering a bill that would look at ways to phase them out. Among other things, the legislation will pave the way for a study on “how to end the practice of using private prisons by 2025.” The legislation has passed in the house and is now on its way to the senate. — Ali Budner, Mountain West News Bureau


American Samoa Citizenship

A U.S. judge recently sided with three American Samoans in Utah wanting to be recognized as citizens. The American Samoa government is expected to appeal, and has until Monday to do so. Many in the U.S. territory are perfectly happy being U.S. nationals, though they can't vote in most federal elections or run for office outside American Samoa. They fear granting birthright citizenship to those born in American Samoa would threaten “fa'a Samoa,” the Samoan way of life, including communal land ownership. An attorney for the three seeking citizenship says the territory's customs and cultures evolve, and there are laws protecting them. — Associated Press

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