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AM News Brief: Education Funding, Radioactive Storage & Romney Calls Election Challenge ‘Egregious Ploy’

Photo of Mitt Romney
Pool Photo
Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said other senators’ plans to oppose certifying the presidential election is an “egregious ploy.” This story and more in the Monday morning news brief.

Monday morning, January 4, 2021

State

Three-Day COVID Total

Utah reported 6,861 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, but that’s a three-day total since cases were not reported on New Year’s Day Friday. Another 32 people have died from the disease since Thursday. The state’s seven-day average for positive tests is more than 29%, up five percentage points compared to the week before. There are currently 486 Utahns hospitalized due to COVID-19 and about 83% of ICU beds are filled statewide. — Lexi Peery

No Diversion Of Education Funding Likely This Year

The Utah State Legislature likely will not divert education funding this year to pay for social programs that benefit children and people with disabilities, according to the Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton. That’s despite the fact that voters approved constitutional Amendment G, which allows lawmakers to do that. It lets the state use income tax revenue, which used to be earmarked for education, to pay for some programs usually covered by sales tax money. Republican legislative leadership have considered the change as a solution to sales tax revenue growth slowing, but Stevenson said lawmakers don't need to use that flexibility yet. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Lawsuit Challenges Firearm Prohibition For Felony

Mindy Vincent is suing the federal government and the state of Utah so she can purchase a firearm. The single mother wants to buy a gun to protect herself and to go hunting and target shooting with her family. But a federal felony conviction in 2008 for trying to cash a nearly $500 fraudulent check at a Salt Lake City grocery store prohibits her from ever possessing a firearm, and she has too many charges to have her criminal record expunged in state court. Vincent has two advanced degrees and works as a licensed clinical social worker. — Associated Press

Southern Utah

Southern Tour Ahead of Gubernatorial Inauguration

Gov.-elect Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov.-elect Deidre Henderson spent the weekend in St. George ahead of their inauguration Monday. They went to local churches and served at the Utah Food Bank to finish out a month-long food drive. Cox, who often emphasizes his farmer background, said spending time in southern Utah is part of his commitment to represent people from across the state. Henderson said another way Cox is trying to better represent communities is the first-ever appointment of a rural affairs senior advisor. Cox’s inauguration is the first time a governor has been sworn in in southern Utah, and it’s happening on the 125th anniversary of Utah statehood. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

Romney Calls Election Challenge “Egregious Ploy”

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said other senators’ plans to oppose certifying the presidential election is an “egregious ploy.” In a statement over the weekend, Romney said the Congressional power to reject the electoral college results is reserved for extreme circumstances. But he said discussions now to do so threaten our Democratic Republic. A number of Republican senators and incoming representatives have said they will not accept the votes of electors, claiming widespread voter fraud and election irregularities. However, there is no evidence of either during the election. — Ross Terrell

New Money For Radioactive Mining Waste Near Utah Border

A disposal site for radioactive mining waste will stay open in Colorado less than 50 miles east of the Utah border. The site got a funding extension as part of the latest federal coronavirus relief bill signed by President Donald Trump. Uranium was mined and processed near Grand Junction during the height of the Cold War. One byproduct was a low-level radioactive waste called ‘mill tailings.’ It's a sand-like material that was used for construction until health hazards were discovered. That waste is now collected and stored at a 94-acre site, the only such government-owned facility still in use. The site was on-track to stop accepting waste this year. New federal funding means it can likely remain open until 2031. — Joe Wertz, Colorado Public Radio