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PM News Brief: Coronavirus Preparations, Legal Victim Support Services & Changes To Cannabis Law

photo of angela dunn speaking at a podium
Jon Reed
/
KUER
Utah Epidemiologist Angela Dunn on Thursday discussed concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

Thursday evening, Feb. 27, 2020

STATE

Compromise Bill On Utah Gerrymandering Law

Utah lawmakers have unveiled a compromise bill on a new law that creates an independent redistricting commission. The bill keeps a ban on partisan gerrymandering intact, but requires the commission to make its own definition of partisan gerrymandering. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

State Prepares For Coronavirus

Utah healthcare providers addressed concerns Thursday over the spread of the coronavirus. Officials say there have not been any cases in Utah but they do expect COVID-19 to arrive eventually. State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn says the biggest concern now is making sure healthcare workers have the resources to protect themselves and others. Dunn says the risk to the general public is low, and basic measures like washing hands and staying home when sick can help prevent spreading the disease. — Jon Reed

Herbert On Utah Abortion Bill

The state Legislature is considering a bill that would ban elective abortions at all stages of pregnancy, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. It would exempt abortions in cases of rape, incest, if the mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus has a lethal defect. Gov. Gary Herbert said he is pro-life and supportive of limiting elective abortions, but felt that the bill was possibly “premature.” The bill passed a state Senate committee Wednesday and is awaiting consideration on the Senate floor. More from the Governor’s news conference. — Sonja Hutson

Last Minute Tweaks To Cannabis Law

Just days before Utah’s medical cannabis program goes into effect March 1, the Utah Legislature passed a bill making changes to it. The new law allows the Department of Agriculture and Food to approve flavoring that minimizes the cannabis taste and odor, expunges the records of those who’ve used marijuana medicinally, and allows unprocessed cannabis flower to be stored in secure containers instead of blister packs. — Sonja Hutson

SOUTHERN UTAH

Sand Hollow State Park Death

A Salt Lake County man is dead after his body was found at Sand Hollow State Park. A missing person’s report was sent out Wednesday, and the next morning the man's car was found at the boat ramp parking lot. His body was recovered in the jumping rocks area of the park, where it is permitted to jump into the reservoir. The man’s identity will not be released until his family has been notified. — Caroline Ballard

NORTHERN UTAH

County DA Creates New Victim Support Services Division

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office launched a new Victim Support Services Division Thursday. District Attorney Sim Gill says he wanted to create a model that would recognize how trauma affects victims, and go from a prosecution-centered model to a victim-centered one. He says the program will help victims navigate the criminal justice system from before a trial to after adjudication. The Victim Support Services Division will employ around 40 social workers, mental health providers, counselors and interns. — Caroline Ballard

LDS Church Postpones Key Meeting

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is postponing a key April meeting of its top global leaders because of the spread of the coronavirus. The church also announced Thursday it is discouraging church members who live outside the U.S. from coming to Utah for its biannual general conference. The leadership meeting brings together church leaders who gather behind closed doors to discuss the faith's policies. It has been rescheduled for October. The larger conference scheduled for the weekend of April 4 is still on for U.S. church members. — Associated Press

Romney In Utah

Sen. Mitt Romney will be in Utah Friday. It’s his second visit since voting to convict President Donald Trump on one article of impeachment — a move widely criticized by Utah’s Republican legislative leaders. In the morning, he’ll be visiting Silicon Slopes Headquarters, and in the afternoon he’ll meet with the state Legislature. A coalition of local advocacy and community groups will also hold a rally at the Utah State Capitol to thank Romney for his vote to impeach. — Caroline Ballard

NATION

Reopened Coal Leasing

The Trump administration Wednesday reopened public lands to new coal leases and it said the move won’t really hurt the environment. Conservation groups argue that assessment is laughable because of coal’s contribution to climate change. But regardless… the move probably won’t result in a mining boom. That’s because the market has shifted away from coal and towards cheaper renewables and natural gas. It simply isn’t cost-effective to find and dig up new coal. Read the full story. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

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