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PM News Brief: Attorney General Impeachment, Canceling Gym Memberships & State Budget

Photo of a man speaking from behind a podium on a stage
Rick Egan
/
Salt Lake Tribune
Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson said Friday it’s unlikely lawmakers will move forward with the impeachment against the state’s attorney general, Sean Reyes. This story and more in Friday evening's news brief.

Friday evening, February 19, 2021

State

Clarifying Rules For Utah’s Community Impact Board

Utah is supposed to spend revenue generated by drilling and mining on federal public lands to offset extraction impacts. But Sen. Ron Winterton, R-Roosevelt, has filed legislation that could change that. He said his bill helps clarify the law by defining terms like “planning” and “public service.” But it would also allow the money to go to projects that increase natural resource production, and it removes language about alleviating drilling and mining impacts. Wendy Park, with the Center for Biological Diversity, said the bill “improperly allows the money to be spent on pretty much anything, including private fossil fuel projects like the Uinta Basin Railway.” It is waiting to be considered by the full Senate. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Impeachment Inquiry Against Attorney General Sean Reyes Likely Over

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson said Friday it’s unlikely lawmakers will move forward with the impeachment against the state’s attorney general. Last month, a Democratic state representative introduced a bill to create a committee to investigate Sean Reyes. Wilson noted there are only two weeks left in the session and the bill probably won’t go anywhere. “It’s really late in the session for a bill like that to come out and I would like to think that it's unlikely that we’ll see it through the process but I guess time will tell,” Wilson said. The impeachment inquiry came in response to concerns about Reyes' role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in early January. — Ivana Martinez

Utah COVID-19 Update

Utah health officials announced 857 new COVID-19 cases Friday. That continues the downward trend the state has seen in recent weeks. The seven day average for new cases is now just over 800. At the beginning of the month, it was more than 1,400. Officials said another 21 people have died from the disease but 19 of those deaths happened before Feb. 1. As of Thursday, Utahns age 65 and up are now eligible for the vaccine. — Ross Terrell

Stuck In A Gym Membership? It May Get Easier To Get Out

Trying to get out of a gym membership you never use? Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, has your back. He is sponsoring a bill that would require gyms to accept an in-person cancellation. Right now, some only allow members to cancel online or over the phone. Similar legislation passed in New York in 2020, after mounting pressure from residents. They said they had trouble canceling gym memberships despite being in a pandemic. Arizona is also considering a bill to make cancelling memberships easier in its current legislative session. If it passes the rules committee, Ray’s bill would next go to a House committee. — Caroline Ballard

Utah Expecting Increased Tax Revenue Despite Pandemic

Despite the pandemic, Utah says it’s expecting an increase in tax revenue. Gov. Spencer Cox and the state Legislature released updated budget estimates Friday. The General Fund will see $112 million more than originally projected. The education fund is expecting $315 million in new money. Requests for funding are about double the money that’s available. The state’s funding priorities include education, enrolling people in Medicaid expansion and giving Utahns a tax cut. Legislative leadership said they’ll release more information next week about tax relief. — Caroline Ballard

Southern Utah

Bill To Change Dixie State University’s Name Stalls In Senate

The bill to change the name of Dixie State University has stalled in the Utah Senate. The House passed it last week 50-21. University administrators have been told the bill won’t be heard again this session, according to the Associated Press. Senate leadership wouldn’t say definitively if that’s the case at a press conference Friday. Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, said the bill is still being looked at. Utah’s Legislative session ends in two weeks, and if it isn’t heard by then it’s effectively dead. Read the full story. Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

U.S. House Natural Resource Committee Bans Guns In Meeting Room

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee is one of the most powerful congressional bodies when it comes to managing the West’s public lands. But the committee’s first meeting of the year devolved into an argument over banning guns. It targeted Colorado Republican and member Rep. Lauren Boebert who has been vocal about carrying her sidearm on Capitol Hill. Ultimately an amendment to keep guns out of the meeting room was passed along party lines. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

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