Sonja Hutson | KUER 90.1

Sonja Hutson

Reporter

Sonja Hutson is a politics and government reporter at KUER. She’s been reporting on politics ever since the 10th grade, when she went to so many school board meetings the district set up a press table for her. Before coming to Utah, Sonja spent four years at KQED in San Francisco where she covered everything from wildfires to the tech industry. When she’s not working, you can find her skiing, camping, or deeply invested in a 1000 piece puzzle.

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Photo of the candidates standing behind podiums
Pool photo

Four Republicans are vying to be the party’s choice to unseat Utah’s lone Democratic member of Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams. They made their cases to voters in the 4th Congressional District at a debate Monday.

Graffiti on Utah Capitol grounds.
Jon Reed / KUER

Utah politicians are largely criticizing the violence that took place during a Saturday protest over the in-custody death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis. Some are calling for systemic change to prevent more deaths of black people at the hands of police. 

State Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said protests are effective tools to bring awareness to issues, although she’s worried the violence on Saturday has diluted that message. 

Photo of U.S. Capitol under blue sky.
Nicole Nixon / KUER

The state Legislature’s Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee voted Friday to recommend using roughly $37 million from the Medicaid rainy day fund to offset proposed cuts to social services. Those cuts include reducing payments to foster families and money for domestic violence shelters.

Photo of a machine and workers laying asphalt on a road
peuceta via iStock

The Utah Department of Transportation’s budget could shrink by up to $1.5 million next year due to falling tax revenues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

Photo of a chain link fence
Steve Gehrke of the Utah Department of Corrections

A legislative subcommittee approved plans Wednesday to cut up to nearly $45 million in funding for Utah’s courts and Department of Corrections. 

Photo of rows of cots in a large warehouse.
Courtesy Utah Department of Public Safety

Utah spent nearly $1.5 million on a quarantine center and a hospital overflow site, but did not use either. Those contracts will expire at the end of May and June respectively.

Photo of two men sitting in grey armchairs.
Screenshot via Facebook

All four Republican candidates for governor participated in a forum hosted by the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Utah Thursday. 

Photo of the woman speaking during a video conference
City of Midvale

State and local governments have moved public meetings online in order to help slow the spread of coronavirus. They’ve had to figure out how to balance security and public access

Photo of county health department road sign.
iStock.com / sshepard

After a failed attempt to limit local governments’ authority over stay at home orders during April’s special session, Utah lawmakers plan to try again. 

Photo of capitol facade.
Brian Albers / KUER

Utah lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss plans to cut up to $1.3 billion out of the state’s budget for the next fiscal year.

Photo of ballot envelope.
Renee Bright / KUER

The June 30 primary election will be conducted entirely by mail under a new state law. Seven counties will give their residents the option to pick up a ballot in their car on election day if they don’t get one in the mail. 

Photo of a man in a suit standing behind a wooden podium
Sonja Hutson / KUER

The four Republican candidates for governor shared their plans — and criticized current approaches — to help Utah’s economy recover from the downturn spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. The candidates laid out their views Thursday, during a forum hosted by the Salt Lake Chamber and EDCUtah. 

Illustration of a blue donkey wearing a red elephant mask.
Renee Bright / KUER

25-year-old Jess Esplin is an unaffiliated voter who describes herself as “progressive” and usually votes for Democrats. But she has a plan as she sits down at her computer.

Photo of a man in a tan suit in front of a banner reading "Envision Utah" and photo of a man wearing a blue suit in front of a banner reading "Cox Governor"
Screengrab from the virtual debate

Utah’s population is expected to nearly double over the next four decades, according to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. 

Photo of white pills spilling out of an orange prescription bottle.
Moussa81 / iStock.com

A progressive advocacy group has alleged Draper-based pharmacy Meds in Motion charged the state too much for 20,000 doses of a controversial anti-malaria drug used to treat COVID-19.

Photo of the Utah state capitol building.
Brian Grimmett / KUER

If Republican candidate for governor Jan Garbett collected at least 19,040 signatures — instead of the usually required 28,000 — by April 13, she would qualify for the GOP primary ballot under a federal court ruling announced Monday evening. 

Photo of a man in a blue suit in front of two flags
Sonja Hutson / KUER

Updated 12:24 a.m. 4/26/20

 

The Utah Republican Party hosted a virtual state convention Saturday to pick their nominees for the June primary. People running for office also had a chance to qualify for the ballot by collecting signatures. Candidates pre-recorded their speeches and the party posted them to its website earlier this week. Delegates voted using an app called Voatz, or called in their votes if they had technical problems. Roughly 93% of delegates voted, according to Utah GOP Chair Derek Brown. 

Bob Nelson

Utah’s Republican and Democratic parties are holding virtual state conventions this weekend, where delegates will decide which candidates each party puts on the primary ballots in June. 

Photo of the Utah state capitol building.
Brian Albers / KUER

The Utah Legislature voted to appropriate more than $1 billion in federal money Thursday toward the state’s coronavirus response. 

Screenshot from a virtual press conference
Sonja Hutson / KUER

Utah’s Coronavirus Community Task Force has a new subcommittee focused on addressing the needs of minority communities in Utah. 

Photo of a woman with blonde hair wearing white headphones
Courtesy of Marci Green Campbell

Running for political office, especially when trying to win over state and county delegates, involves a lot of in-person interaction. But during the coronavirus pandemic, campaigning has gone virtual and the Republican and Democratic parties didn’t hold caucus meetings to elect new delegates. 

Photo of a laptop computer screen showing a video conference call
Courtesy of Candice Pierucci

Normally, the sound of chimes in the Capitol calls representatives to the House chamber to debate and vote on bills. Now, it brings them to their computers. 

Photo of two men in suits greeting one another with an elbow bump. One man is wearing a mask while the other holds a mask in his hand.
Jeffrey Allred / Deseret News Pool Photo

At the beginning of March, before Utah had any confirmed coronavirus cases, Gov. Gary Herbert stood at a podium in the state’s emergency operations center in the basement of the Capitol. He had an announcement. 

Photo of the Utah state capitol building.
Brian Albers / KUER

The Utah Legislature passed a bill Friday granting immunity from lawsuits to health care providers that give their patients experimental drugs to treat diseases causing a public health emergency. The immunity also covers any medication used for a different purpose than the Food and Drug Administration has approved it for. 

Photo of a ballot on a mailbox
Renee Bright / KUER

Utah’s primary elections in June could be held entirely through mail-in ballots, unless counties create drive-up polling options, under a bill passed by the Legislature Thursday. 

Screenshot of lawmakers wearing masks at dais.
le.utah.gov

Updated 5:52 p.m. MDT 4/16/2020

The governor would have to notify legislative leadership of an executive action during a pandemic at least 48 hours before they announce it, under a new bill passed by the Utah House of Representatives Thursday. 

Photo of capitol facade.
Brian Albers / KUER

The Utah Legislature’s first-ever virtual special session kicks off Thursday morning. There won’t be live public comment, but Utahns can submit their thoughts on bills through the Legislature’s website directly to their representatives or to all lawmakers. 

Photo of Erin Mendenhall making the announcement outside.
Nicole Nixon / KUER

When Salt Lake City opened a temporary overnight homeless shelter in January, it was intended as a solution for high demand for shelter space during the winter. The plan was to close it April 15, and the city is sticking with that plan, despite the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Photo of legislature.
Austen Diamond for KUER

Legislative leaders announced Monday night they have called the Utah legislature into a special session set to begin Thursday morning. 

Photo of beds at a new homeless shelter.
Rocio Hernandez / KUER

Salt Lake County is renting out an entire hotel for the next two weeks to house asymptomatic people — who are older than 60 or who have underlying health conditions — and were staying at homeless shelters.

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