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AM News Brief: Utah Homeless Council, Racism As Health Crisis & No Added Fees For Electric Vehicles

Close up of an electric car charging.
Pixabay
A Utah bill that would have drastically increased electric and hybrid vehicle fees was voted down Monday in the state House. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Tuesday morning, February 23, 2021

State

Bill Would Create Statewide Homeless Council

A bill to create a statewide homeless council and a homeless services officer cleared the Utah House Monday. It’s based on recommendations from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. The legislation comes with an $800,000 price tag, but the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, argued it will actually help save money. “The small fiscal note with this bill will be eclipsed by the private donations that will be flowing back into our homeless service providers by restoring confidence to the philanthropic community that we as a state take this seriously,” Eliason said. He said it would also coordinate funding from donors. A similar attempt to manage the state’s homeless services failed during last year’s general session. The bill now moves on to the Senate. — Emily Means

No Fee Increase For Electric Vehicles

A Utah bill that would have drastically increased electric and hybrid vehicle fees was voted down Monday in the state House. Fees would have risen to nearly 3.5 times what they are now over the next three years. Supporters of the bill said the idea was to bring those fees closer to what the average driver of a gas-powered vehicle pays in gas taxes at the pump. That money goes toward paying for road maintenance. Critics said the legislation would have been bad for efforts to improve Utah’s air quality. — Sonja Hutson

Group Calls Racism A Public Health Crisis

Utah’s Public Health Association said Monday it believes racism should be treated like a public health crisis. The group is made up of healthcare workers like doctors, nurses and community leaders. In a press release, they threw their support behind a resolution recently filed in the state’s legislature. Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, is the resolution’s sponsor. It calls racism a moral crisis and asks for the state to commit to addressing the issue. The public health group says the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the resilience of Utah’s communities of color while highlighting racial inequities. People of color make up about 24% of the state’s population, but they account for more than 30% of COVID cases. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

U Gets Interim President

The Utah System of Higher Education has appointed Dr. Michael Good to lead the University of Utah as its interim president. He currently serves as the CEO of University of Utah Health, dean of the medical school and senior vice president of health sciences at the U. Chris Nelson, the U’s communications director, said Good’s interim role will largely be as a liaison between the university and state leaders, as well as the chief spokesperson for the university. Devon Cantwell, a graduate student at the U and organizer with the campus safety group UnsafeU, called Good one of the school’s best options for interim president in part because of the way he’s handled calls for diversity and equity at the medical school. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Southern Utah

Man Identified In Zion Hiking Accident

Officials have identified the body found Friday afternoon in Zion National Park as 42-year-old Corbin McMillen of St. George. Park officials said he had not returned after telling his mother Thursday he was going to hike Angels Landing trail. They said they had found his unoccupied vehicle parked at the Grotto Trailhead around midnight that evening. A formal search began Friday morning, and searchers found McMillen’s body at the base of Moonlight Buttress that afternoon. McMillen had sustained injuries consistent with a high elevation fall, according to the Washington County Sheriff's Office. — Bob Nelson

Region/Nation

Effort To Bring Back A New Era Deal Program

Rep. Joe Neguse, D-CO, has re-introduced a bill to create a federal conservation corps similar to the New Deal era program. The 21st Century Conservation Corps Act would pour 9 billion dollars into hiring and training individuals for traditional conservation jobs, like trail building, as well as more pressing matters — like improving access to clean drinking water and wildfire mitigation. There have been similar attempts in the recent past to revitalize a civilian jobs program, but none were successful. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau