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AM News Brief: Earthquake Assistance, Charter School Pandemic Funds & Ranked Choice Voting

Photo of Utah flag on Capitol building.
Cory Dinter for KUER
A Utah legislative committee met Tuesday to discuss ways to combat plurality in elections. This story and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, August 19, 2020

State

Gubernatorial Primary Renews Look At Ranked Choice Voting

A Utah legislative committee met Tuesday to discuss ways to combat plurality in elections. That’s when the winner of a race with more than two candidates gets less than half of the votes. The main option under consideration is ranked choice voting, where voters number candidates by their preference. Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley, said that would address complaints he’s heard about the recent gubernatorial primary, where Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox beat former Gov. Jon Huntsman with 36% of the vote. Winder said he’s sponsoring a bill to implement ranked choice voting statewide. One county clerk told the committee he’s concerned about ranked choice voting because it’s confusing for voters and it would undermine trust in elections. — Emily Means

Southern Utah

Recreationists Considered In Plan For Moab Canyons

The Bureau of Land Management has backed down from a plan to close two canyons near Moab to climbers, slackliners and base jumpers. The closures are meant to protect raptor and bighorn sheep habitat, but the BLM’s plan to close the canyons to recreationists came as a shock when it was announced in June. Based on feedback from those groups, the bureau is now proposing a seasonal permit system for the three most popular climbs in the area. The BLM also exempted two popular areas for slacklining from the closure plan. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Northern Utah

Earthquake Assistance

Homeowners and businesses with damage from the Magna earthquake in mid-March now have several options to receive financial assistance. The Utah Division of Emergency Management held a town hall meeting Tuesday night. They offered guidance for Salt Lake and Davis County residents on how to apply for federal grants and loans from the Small Business Administration. Janna Wilkinson, an emergency planner for the state, said if any homeowners suspect damage, they should sign up for a virtual inspection through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The deadline to apply for assistance from FEMA or the SBA is Sept. 8. — Jessica Lowell

Charter School Money

Salt Lake County will give out $1.4 million in reimbursement grants to its fifty charter schools. County officials said the grants will range between $9,000 to $49,000 and are meant to help with expenses that are covered by federal CARES spending. The reimbursements will only cover purchases made from June through October that are related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The County has already granted $10 million in CARES Act funding to five public schools in its area. — Ross Terrell

Church Combines Cannery Operations

Two Utah cannery operations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be consolidated. Church officials said a change in processing demands has brought about the shift, effective in January, but is not related to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Cannery operations help address food insecurity in communities, according to a division director in the Welfare and Self-Reliance Services Department. The Murray facility will be combined with the Harrisville Utah Cannery. The Church owns and operates five canneries in the United States. The other facilities are at Welfare Square in Salt Lake City, Idaho and Houston, where food grown on Church-owned farms is packaged and bottled. — Diane Maggipinto

Region/Nation

Pendley Still Leading Bureau of Land Management

A former oil industry attorney will continue calling the shots for now at a government agency that oversees nearly a quarter-billion public acres in the U.S. West. That's despite the White House saying over the weekend that President Donald Trump would withdraw the nomination of William Perry Pendley. A document obtained by The Associated Press shows Pendley's direction over the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management will continue under an arrangement that Pendley himself set up months ago. He signed an order in May that makes his own position the bureau's default leader while the director's post is vacant. Details of the succession plan prompted Democrats on Wednesday to renew calls for Pendley's removal. — Associated Press

Majority Of Americans Think It’s Unsafe To Reopen Schools

A vast majority of Americans do not believe that reopening schools during the pandemic is safe. That’s according to a new survey published Tuesday. Still, some in our region, including Wyoming, Montana and Colorado, were more open to the idea. The report was conducted as part of an ongoing project by researchers at Harvard, Rutgers, Northeastern and Northwestern Universities. — Nate Hegyi

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