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PM News Brief: Paid Maternity Leave, Money v. Coronavirus & Signatures For Gubernatorial Candidate

Photo of man and woman holding a baby's hands
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Certain Utah state employees could get up to three weeks of paid maternity leave, under a bill passed by a state Senate committee Thursday morning.

Thursday evening, March 5, 2020 wright

STATE

Changing The Constitution On Education Funding

A Utah constitutional amendment approved by a state Senate committee Thursday would allow education funds to be spent on supporting children and individuals with a disability. Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, said it’s aimed at addressing a budget imbalance: Income tax revenue, which funds education, is growing, and sales tax revenue, which feeds the general fund, has slowed. The Utah Education Association said this is a big change and lawmakers need more time to consider it. Even if the amendment clears the Legislature and governor’s desk, it would still need approval from a majority of voters in November. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Tourism & The Coronavirus

Tourism is a big business in Utah. In 2018 alone, the industry generated $9.75 billion and brought in travelers from all over the world. But fears over the spread of the coronavirus are threatening to put a damper on the industry, which has been bolstered by Chinese tourists in recent years. Now, international visitors are cancelling hotel reservations, business conferences have been put on hold, and Utah’s tourism office has also stopped advertising in some international markets. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Funding To Fight An Outbreak

Utah is looking to set aside more than $16 million to deal with a potential coronavirus outbreak in the state. That’s according to Senate Executive Appropriations Chair Jerry Stevenson. He says the money will come from savings in the state’s health care plan and should be enough, given the current situation. So far, there have been no known cases of coronavirus contracted in Utah, but the state has assembled a task force, and the state epidemiologist has said the virus will come here. At the federal level, the U.S. Senate voted 96 to 1 Thursday to provide $7.8 billion in emergency funding to fight coronavirus. — Sonja Hutson & Caroline Ballard

Giving Mothers More Time After Childbirth

A bill that establishes up to three weeks of paid maternity leave for certain state employees cleared a Senate committee Thursday morning. Supporters of the bill say it would benefit the health of mothers and babies and would make the state more competitive in attracting future workers. The bill now moves to the Senate for a vote. — Grace Osusky

Charter School Oversight

A bill that would require more financial oversight of charter schools passed a state Senate committee unanimously Thursday. The bill sets up a three year trial period for new charter schools and requires all new and established charters to use the same accounting methods as other public schools. It also encourages the state Charter School Board, or other charter school authorizer, to request a judge appoint a receiver for failed schools to protect the school’s assets. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Expanding Utah’s Electric Vehicle Chargers

An electric utility, like Rocky Mountain Power, could soon get the green light to build a network of electric vehicle chargers across Utah. That comes from a bill that passed the State House of Representatives Thursday. The utility would be capped at spending $50 million on the project and could recoup the cost of building the infrastructure through electricity bills. Rep. Lowry Snow, R-Santa Clara, said customers likely wouldn’t pay more because Rocky Mountain Power is ending charges related to a different program. — Sonja Hutson

First Gubernatorial Candidate Qualifies With Signatures

Thomas Wright has qualified as the first Republican nominee for governor. The former state Republican Party chairman had at least 28,000 voter signatures verified by the state and will officially appear on the primary ballot. Wright's running mate is Utah Congressman Rob Bishop. Bishop will retire from the U.S. House after his current term. The gubernatorial primary will take place June 30. — Caroline Ballard

REGION

FBI Asks For Help With Missing Children

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking for photos and videos taken in Yellowstone National Park on Sept. 8, 2019, in conjunction with a missing persons case. The FBI has discovered that 17-year-old Tylee Ryan and 7-year-old J.J. Vallow were in the park on that day. They are looking for any information from people who may have spotted the Idaho children, who have been missing since September, their mother Lori Vallow or their uncle Alex Cox. They were traveling in a silver Ford pickup with the license plate CPQUINT. — Caroline Ballard

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