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AM News Brief: Utah F-35s go to Europe, activists boo Great Salt Lake bill & 10% of kids in poverty

Utah F-35 Fighter Jet
Capt. Kip Sumner
/
U.S. Air Force, public domain
Airmen from the 388th Fighter Wing, based at Hill Airforce Base in Utah, prepare an F-35A Lightning II for deployment to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Feb, 14, 2022.

Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022

Northern Utah

Hill AFB fighter wing sent to Europe as Russia tensions simmer

Fighter jets along with active and reserve personnel from Hill Air Force Base have been deployed to Germany. Their public affairs unit said the deployment comes in “this period of uncertainty.” F-35 pilots, maintainers and support staff arrived in Germany Wednesday to bolster readiness and enhance, in part, what’s described as “NATO's collective defense posture.” The deployment comes with Russian troops massed on Ukraine's border. President Joe Biden has said an invasion remains distinctly possible. — Pamela McCall

Activists criticize new bill to protect Great Salt Lake

Attempts to save and restore the Great Salt Lake are underway at the state legislature, but some environmentalists say it's not enough. House Speaker Brad Wilson rolled out a bill Wednesday that puts $40 million toward creating the Great Salt Lake Watershed Enhancement Program. Under HB 410, state wildlife officials would issue one-time grants to projects that maintain or increase water flows and support the lake’s natural infrastructure. But Zach Frankel with the environmental group Utah Rivers Council called the bill a “band-aid” and not a permanent solution. He argues any water purchased for the lake would only help it for the next 10 years at best. — Emily Means

Southern Utah

Business owners hope for return of foreign workers

Many Utah tourism-based businesses depend on help from foreign workers, specifically those with J-1 visas. The process to get these workers have been disrupted the past two years and officials hope for their return before the upcoming busy season. In Garfield County, tourism is the biggest economic driver. There are around 4,000 people but more than 2 million people visit, according to Falyn Owens, the county’s tourism director. Lance Syrett, general manager of Ruby’s Inn, said before 2020 they’d have 90 to 100 J-1 workers a year. The pandemic and visa backlogs have led to a decrease in that number over the past two years, but Syrett is hopeful now for the upcoming season. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery

State

Kids and poverty in Utah

More than 10% of Utah children are experiencing poverty according to a new report from the advocacy group Voices for Utah Children. It compiled data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Utah Department of Workforce Service and found that since 2019, the state saw an increase of over 4,000 additional children considered to be in intergenerational poverty. About a third of kids in Piute County are in poverty — the highest percentage of any county in the state. Morgan County has the lowest percentage with just over 4% of kids in poverty. The report also looked at data on mental health and education. The authors said it’s meant to help policymakers address kids’ needs. — Jon Reed

Region/Nation

Tribes sue over voting rights

Four Native American tribes are suing the state of Montana to block new legislation that eliminates voter registration on Election Day and makes it harder to return mail ballots. They say the changes will disproportionately impact Native voters who often live far from the polls. Jacqueline De León of the Native American Rights Fund said other Western legislatures are weighing bills that would make it harder to vote. A Utah bill aims to end mail balloting, and in Arizona, some lawmakers want to get rid of drop boxes. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

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