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PM News Brief: New Abortion Bill, Wright's Signatures & Utah Lawmakers Praise Trump

Photo of man signing a piece of paper on a clipboard.
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Utah gubernatorial candidate Thomas Wright, a luxury real estate executive and former Utah Republican Party Chair, says he's submitted enough signatures to the state election office to qualify for the primary ballot in June.

Thursday evening, Feb. 20, 2020

STATE

Crunching The Numbers

Utah lawmakers have more than $900 million extra to spend this year, according to new estimates released by state leaders Thursday. Legislative leaders said the new totals are signs of a growing economy, but point out that $841 million of that is income tax revenue and is constitutionally required to go into the Education Fund. Just $80 million of the totals goes into the General Fund. That, they said, is further evidence of a “structural imbalance” that needs tax reform to fix. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Bill Would Require Ultrasounds For Abortions

People receiving abortions in Utah would have to undergo an ultrasound beforehand, under a state bill introduced Thursday by Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan. The doctor or technician performing the ultrasound would have to describe, in real time, the ultrasound images, including the presence of visible body parts and organs as well as the location of the fetus in the uterus. The doctor would also have to make the heartbeat audible, although the patient could avert their eyes or ask that the volume of the heartbeat be turned down or off. — Sonja Hutson

Thomas Wright Submits Signatures For Gubernatorial Primary

Republican gubernatorial candidate Thomas Wright said he has submitted enough signatures to the state election office to qualify for the primary ballot in June. Wright, a luxury real estate executive and former Utah Republican Party Chair, said his campaign turned in over 30,000 signatures. The office needs to verify at least 28,000 of those for Wright to make it on the ballot. Of the six Republicans running for governor, one other candidate has submitted signatures. Spencer Cox’s campaign turned in signatures last Monday, and the elections office has verified nearly 19,000 so far. — Sonja Hutson

Legislative Leadership Praises Trump

Utah Senate President Stuart Adams and House Speaker Brad Wilson sent a formal citation to President Trump today, thanking him for his leadership. Adams says the Trump administration’s policies — like cutting taxes and regulations — have boosted the national economy and enhanced Utah’s success. Adams also praised Trump’s controversial reduction of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments, which he said gave Utah more control over its public lands. The two-page letter was written on behalf of the state Legislature, but the House Democratic Caucus said it was not discussed or voted on. — Jon Reed

SOUTHERN UTAH

Drilling Near Slickrock? Comment Period Delays

The Bureau of Land Management has delayed its public comment period for an upcoming oil and gas lease sale of land near the Slickrock bike trail in Moab. The comment period for the controversial sale was set to open Thursday, but will instead open next week, according to the BLM. The agency has come under fire for including parts of the Sand Flats Recreation Area, where the Slickrock trail runs, in the lease sale that will open this summer. On Tuesday, Gov. Gary Herbert came out in opposition to drilling inside of Sand Flats. The BLM says it was still considering which areas will be included in the lease sale. — Kate Groetzinger, Blanding

REGION

Climate Change & River Flows

A warming climate is already causing river flows in the southwest’s largest watershed to decline. A new study from the U.S. Geological Survey found that continued warming, of even a degree or two, will likely result in severe water shortages in the Colorado River basin. Warmer temperatures diminish snowpack, lessening the amount of water, and accelerating evaporation. Seven U.S. states — including Utah — depend on the Colorado River for drinking and irrigation water. Read the full story. — Luke Runyon, KUNC

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