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AM News Brief: Mother-In-Law Unit Bill Stalls, Negotiating Pandemic Relief & Avalanche Claims Life

Summit County Sherrif  Square Top Avalanche.jpeg
Summit County Sherrif
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A man was killed in an avalanche Saturday morning in a backcountry area known as Square Top just outside the boundaries of Park City Mountain Resort, according to the Utah Avalanche Center. This story and more in the Monday morning news brief.

Monday morning, February 1, 2021

Utah Legislature

Limiting Facial Recognition Searches

Utah lawmakers are considering regulating the use of facial recognition software to search the state’s driver's license database. The Utah Senate gave an initial green light Friday to a bill that allows the Utah Department of Public Safety to do that only as part of an investigation into high-level crimes. The bill is a response to a 2019 report from Georgetown University that found Utah DPS ran database searches for outside law enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Mother-in-Law Unit Bill Stalls

A Utah bill aimed at making it easier for people to create mother-in-law rental units has stalled in the state Legislature. It would prevent cities from placing restrictions on internal accessory dwelling units, like lot size and parking availability. Bill sponsor Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, said it’s a way to help alleviate the state’s housing shortage. But some cities said they know how best to handle mother-in-law units in their area, and the state shouldn’t tell them how to do that. — Sonja Hutson

State

COVID Cases Down Over Previous Weekend

The Utah Department of Health reported roughly 2,500 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday and Sunday, about 700 fewer cases than last weekend. The percentage of people testing positive for the virus has stayed about the same — about one in five. Nearly 250,000 Utahns have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and starting this week, the state will start receiving larger shipments of the Moderna vaccine. — David Fuchs

Northern Utah

Public Weighs In On Policing

Salt Lake City’s Racial Equity In Policing Commission spent nearly two hours listening to community members Thursday night. Some criticized the department for responding too slowly, others shared appreciation for law enforcement. Angela Kenda was one person who called in. She said police who break the rules need to be held to the same standard as people who break the law. Kenda said she believes the department tries to hire good people, “but when those bad apples get through, I feel like they get protected and there’s no accountability held on the officer’s side.” The commission was created last year in response to protests against police brutality. The commission plans to answer community members’ questions and make those responses available to the public. — Emily Means

Park City Avalanche Claims Life

A man was killed in an avalanche Saturday morning in a backcountry area known as Square Top just outside the boundaries of Park City Mountain Resort, according to the Utah Avalanche Center. The Summit County Sheriff's Office identified the man as 57-year-old Kurt Damschroder of Park City. A statement from the sheriff's office said a friend was able to reach the victim and tried to revive him. Another slide in the area was likely — so the companion was forced to leave the victim, according to the sheriff's office. Damschroder's body was recovered following avalanche control. — Bob Nelson

Region/Nation

Negotiating Pandemic Relief

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and nine other GOP senators will meet with President Joe Biden Monday afternoon. The President’s invitation came in response to a letter the senators sent him Sunday which outlined an alternative to Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan. They said they agreed with the President on some items, like beefing up vaccine production and distribution. But the Republicans’ proposal calls for more “targeted” economic assistance than what’s in Biden’s plan. — Emily Means

Letter Urges End To Private Immigration Detention Centers

Democratic Colorado Rep. Jason Crow and other lawmakers sent a letter to President Joe Biden Thursday urging him to suspend ICE’s contracts with private immigration detention facilities. They sent the letter just days after Biden signed an executive order ending the Justice Department’s contracts with private prisons. The letter references “egregious violations” in private immigration facilities that have jeopardized the health and safety of detained immigrants. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau