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AM News Brief: Voting Access, Masks On Transit & Looking For COVID Relief Compromise

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Brian Grimmett
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Utah Transit Authority officials are reminding passengers to continue to follow federal guidelines for safe travel. This story and more in the Tuesday morning news brief.

Tuesday morning, February 2, 2021

State

Electric Vehicle Fees

A Utah House committee approved a bill Monday that would dramatically increase annual fees for electric and hybrid vehicles starting next year. The idea is to bring those fees closer to what the average driver of a gas-powered vehicle pays in taxes at the pump, which go toward paying for road maintenance. According to the Utah State Tax Commission, the fees would still be less than that average tax payment, but Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Draper, said lawmakers shouldn’t use data from mostly gas-powered cars to make policy decisions about electric vehicles. Harrison and other critics of the bill are also concerned about the environmental impacts of making electric vehicles more expensive to own than they are now. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Access To Voting

Some Utah lawmakers want to make voting more accessible to people with disabilities. A senate committee approved a bill Monday that would require the lieutenant governor to conduct studies about voting accessibility — including the feasibility of mobile voting. Nate Crippes of Utah’s Disability Law Center said not all Utahans have had equal access to voting during this last election. “It’s not just comfort as we saw in this past election, he said. “Many voters with disabilities were faced with choosing between voting privately and independently and putting themselves at greater risk for contracting COVID-19.” Advocates said voter security is just as important to providing access to the ballot. The bill now moves to the full Senate. — Ivana Martinez

Looking for more coverage from Utah’s Capitol Hill? Check out KUER’s podcast 45 Days.

Northern Utah

Mask Up On Transit

Utah Transit Authority officials are reminding passengers to continue to follow federal guidelines for safe travel. In a statement Monday, UTA said new federal guidelines only reinforce the preventative measures the agency put in place last July. Those guidelines include wearing masks while waiting at the station and riding buses and trains. Carolyn Gonot, UTA's Executive Director, said the guidelines keep the workforce and riders safe. Signs are posted on the bus and rail system advising riders of the mask requirement, and UTA is providing face masks on vehicles for riders who need them. — Bob Nelson

Region/Nation

Republicans Seek Compromise On COVID Relief

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, was among ten Republicans who met with President Joe Biden Monday at the White House. They’re proposing an alternative to the President’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan. The group is worried about the price tag on the package. Romney said it should be based on need rather than “a simple blanket payment of billions of dollars.” Romney said Congress has worked on five other COVID relief plans in a bi-partison fashion, and he hopes that will continue. He said that while they didn’t reach an immediate agreement, the president did indicate that the discussions would continue. — Bob Nelson

Indian Health Service Lawsuit

A tribal nation in New Mexico is suing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Indian Health Service over the downsizing of its community hospital. The Acoma Pueblo’s Governor says those agencies terminated the Acoma-Canoncito-Laguna hospital’s emergency services and inpatient care during a pandemic without proper tribal consultation and that the decision has already cost at least one tribal members’ life. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau