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AM News Brief: Utahraptor Fossils, Rental Fee Transparency & The State Of Salt Lake County

Animated image depicting dinosaurs
Illustration by Julius T. Csotonyi, Courtesy of the Utah Department of Natural Resources
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A nine-ton block of fossils being examined by Utah paleontologists is proving to be a far greater discovery than first thought. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, February 26, 2021

State

More Ed Money May Herald Math And Science Opportunities

Recent tax collection estimates have given lawmakers more money to work with this year, including an additional $315 million in education funding. That means many school programs that were cut during the 2020 Legislative session stand a good change of being reinstated. One of the most sought after programs to bring back is the Math and Science Opportunities for Students and Teachers (MOST), which reimburses districts that provide additional resources for math and science such as after school tutoring or advanced placement courses they couldn’t otherwise offer. Despite the additional money, Utah will still rank among the lowest in the country for the amount it spends per student. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Rental Fees Transparency

Utah landlords would have to disclose all rental fees before a potential tenant makes any payments to them under a bill that passed a Utah Senate committee Thursday. If those costs aren’t outlined and the applicant hasn’t signed their lease, they could get their application fee back. Sponsor Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, called it a “best practice.” Housing advocates and lobbyists for landlords supported the bill. Now it goes to the full Senate for consideration. — Emily Means

Making Jail Photos Private

The Utah Legislature said police can’t release mug shots until a person has been convicted of a crime. The Senate voted unanimously in favor of the bill to make a jail photo a private record earlier this week. Supporters said this protects people who were falsely accused or never found guilty of a crime, but some news media outlets have opposed the effort. They’ve argued the photos can serve as a check on law enforcement. It’s now headed to the governor’s desk for his signature. — Associated Press/Elaine Clark

Northern Utah

State of Salt Lake County

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson gave her third State of the County address on Thursday. In a video reflecting on the last year, Wilson said she’s proud of the community for stepping up to support small businesses during the pandemic, but that there's still a long way to go. “I want to share that in spite of all of the optimism I have for 2021, I continue to be humbled and saddened by the loss of life and damage done over the past year. 2021 is a rebuilding year for many of us,” Wilson said. She urged the community to continue to have compassion as the pandemic continues on. Wilson said county priorities included the COVID-19 vaccine roll out, rebuilding community spaces and maintaining affordable housing. — Ivana Martinez

Fossil Block Holds More Fossils Than Predicted

A nine-ton block of fossils being examined by Utah paleontologists is proving to be a far greater discovery than first thought. Originally, the fossil block was thought to contain the remains of at least one adult Utahraptor, ten juveniles and three babies. Now, officials with the Utah Geological Survey say their studies show the sandstone block holds an additional baby and juvenile and partial skulls and skeletons. It's also the first time they've found a complete shoulder of an adult. Bones of at least two plant-eating iguanodont dinosaurs were also discovered in the block. Paleontologists said they think the Utahraptor dinosaurs may have been hunting the plant eaters when they got stuck in quicksand. — Bob Nelson

Region/Nation

Navajo Nation Presidents Warns Of Variant Surge

Evening curfews remain in effect on the Navajo Nation seven days a week. Health officials there reported 45 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Thursday. The Navajo Department of Health reported nine more people had died of COVID-related illnesses. Navajo Nation President Johnathan Nez asked residents not to venture off the Nation in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, despite the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Nez pointed to variants that could lead to another surge in March. He said “now is not the time to travel off the Navajo Nation or to hold family gatherings.” — Associated Press/Bob Nelson

New Vaccine Could Help Mountain West

The Food and Drug Administration is set to approve the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine as early as this weekend. If approved there could be tens of millions of single-dose vaccines available nationwide next month. States like New Mexico and Montana lead the nation in administered COVID-19 vaccines, but Utah and Idaho are trailing far behind. Public health officials said this is likely due to the U.S.’s underfunded public health system. In Idaho, public health officials said they are in desperate need of more vaccines and that they’re excited about this new one because it's a single dose and it doesn’t need ultra-cold storage. — Stephanie Serrano, Mountain West News Bureau