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AM News Brief: Trump’s hold on the GOP, voting by mail in Utah & illegal street racing

President Donald J. Trump gestures to White House staff with a fist pump after disembarking Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, following his trip to Texas.
Tia Dufour
White House, public domain
President Donald J. Trump gestures to White House staff with a fist pump after disembarking Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, following his trip to Texas.

Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022


Bill to hold police accountable passes Judiciary Committee

The Utah Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB 126 Wednesday, which supporters say will help police hold each other accountable. It requires officers to intervene when they see another officer engaging in misconduct, like using excessive force. It also requires them to report it. The bill had consensus from law enforcement leaders, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office and activists. Rae Duckworth, head of Black Lives Matter Utah, said it was the first step in building trust with communities and would “encourage officers to get rid of ‘bad apples.’” The legislation also prohibits retaliation against an officer who prevents and reports misconduct. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Studying psychoactive drugs to treat mental illness

Utah lawmakers are considering making a task force to look into using psychoactive drugs to treat mental illness. The bill, HB 167, cleared its first hurdle Wednesday. Rob Vomocil, a father of four from Utah County, said he struggled with depression and anxiety for most of his life and couldn’t find a way to get it under control — until he tried treating it with psychedelics. The task force would be made of 11 people, including mental health professionals, an attorney and a patient. It would have to produce a set of recommendations to the Legislature by the end of October on what legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes should look like. — Sonja Hutson

Growing numbers of Utahns vote by mail

According to a new report by the Sutherland Institute, roughly nine out of 10 Utah voters voted by mail in 2020. Voting by mail has surged in the state after Utah legislators passed a law in 2012 allowing counties to conduct elections entirely by mail. The rise in voting by mail has coincided with an increase in overall voter turnout. A little over half of all eligible voters cast ballots in 2010, but in 2020, about 90% of eligible Utahns turned out to vote. Still, not all residents and lawmakers have supported voting by mail. In 2021, Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan, led an election security rally, and he proposed a law that would eliminate the option to vote by mail for most residents. State lawmakers rejected the proposal, and Christiansen abruptly resigned later that month. — Leah Treidler

Increasing penalties for street racing

In a Utah Senate committee hearing Wednesday, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown testified in support of a bill that would increase penalties for people who participate in street racing events, including spectators. It would also allow the seizure of vehicles that aren’t street legal. Brown said street racing is a crime “that can have deadly and catastrophic consequences.” He also said illegal street racing in SLC has soared — response calls rose from 71 in 2019 to 409 in 2020. — Leah Treidler

Northern Utah

SLC meeting could determine Trump’s hold on the Republican Party

The Democratic National Committee’s Rapid Response Director Ammar Moussa said this week may reveal how firmly Donald Trump maintains his grip on the Republican Party. The statement released Wednesday came ahead of the Republican National Committee’s meeting in Salt Lake City. Moussa said the GOP Chair will have to explain why the organization has spent donor money on Trump’s legal fees and determine whether the RNC is going to “help settle personal scores for the defeated former president.” The RNC has said the meeting will focus on a resolution to condemn Republican members of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection and a proposal to force Republican candidates not to participate in debates. — Leah Treidler

Making Bridal Veil Falls a state monument

Utah County commissioners passed a resolution Wednesday expressing support to designate Bridal Veil Falls as a state monument. Under the resolution, Utah County would provide management services. Commissioner Amelia Powers-Gardner was the lone vote in opposition. She’s concerned about a potential entry fee that could limit access. The future of Bridal Veil has been a hot topic since late 2020 when a developer wanted to build a rehab lodge at the top of the falls. The natural landmark was later placed under a conservation easement. Options for the falls also include designating it as a state park, recreation area or leaving it as is. — Ivana Martinez

Southern Utah

Paleontologists will survey archaeological site in Moab

The Bureau of Land Management is sending a paleontologist to assess the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite. That’s after reports surfaced over the weekend alleging construction equipment had destroyed part of the archaeological site, and the Center for Biological Diversity sent a cease and desist letter to the BLM. In a release, the BLM denied the construction crew had damaged the site but said it will send a team of paleontologists “out of an abundance of caution.” — Leah Treidler

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