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AM News Brief: Emergency Powers, Bleak Forecast For River Flows & Jazz Coach To Head All-Star Team

Columns at the Utah State Capitol Building
KUER
/

Thursday morning, February 18, 2021

State

Increased Penalties For Rioting Gets Committee Approval

A bill that increases penalties and eliminates bail for rioting passed a Utah legislative committee Wednesday. The legislation, which is in response to last year’s protests against police brutality and racial injustice, would also give immunity to someone driving a car who hits or kills a protester if the driver feared for their life. Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said he had some issues with the bill but still voted for it. He said most people who protested over the summer were peaceful. The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah and the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office spoke against the bill. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Lawmakers Look To Change Emergency Powers

Utah lawmakers are proposing a bill that would limit government power during declared states of emergencies. The legislation comes in response to public health orders issued during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Minority Whip Luz Escamilla said this is about increasing transparency between governments and Utahns. “A lot of people throughout this COVID pandemic response have had a lot of questions about how decisions are being made. I believe this bill will help us codify a process. It’s about how we provide the tools for our local health departments,” Escamilla said. The bill would also limit the governor’s ability to renew a public health emergency order after it expires. It’s scheduled to be debated in a Senate committee on Thursday. — Ivana Martinez

Northern Utah

Alta Remains Closed

The town of Alta in Little Cottonwood Canyon has been in interlodge for three days. Officials said due to extreme avalanche danger people must stay indoors on low levels and should keep away from windows. The road that leads to Alta and Snowbird Ski resort is also closed while crews do avalanche mitigation work on the north and south slopes of the canyon. Officials from Alta said they will reassess interlodge restrictions Thursday morning. — Bob Nelson

Utah Jazz Coach To Lead All-Star Team

Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder will lead the western conference at next month’s NBA All-star game according to reports from ESPN. It will mark the first time in nearly four decades that a Jazz coach was at the helm of an all-star team. Frank Layden was the last to do so in 1984. Utah currently has the best record in the league and is on an nine-game winning streak. Jazz star Donovan Mitchell has the fourth-highest number of all-star votes among players at similar positions. — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

St. George Vaccine Clinic Postponed

Severe Weather has forced the cancellation of Thursday’s vaccine clinic in St. George. Winter storms caused shipping delays of COVID-19 vaccines from outside Utah, according to the Southwest Utah Public Health Department. Officials said they're working to contact those with appointments by email and other methods. Washington County residents who had appointments for Thursday are being rescheduled to next week. — Bob Nelson

Region/Nation

Bleak Forecast For River Flows

Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey found river flows could decline 36-80% by the year 2100 across nine Western states. That’s according to a new study co-authored by Utah-based USGS researcher Olivia Miller. She said she hopes the information will help with planning for the region’s future water demand. Tens of millions of people rely on these rivers for drinking and irrigation water. Miller said some parts of the southwest are already dealing with serious water shortages, and those situations could become more tense as river flows are reduced. — Luke Runyon, KUNC