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PM News Brief: Dixie State Renaming, January Employment & Bail Reform Repeal Moves Ahead

Photo of Dixie State Entrance.
Flickr Creative Commons / David Sanborn
/
https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidmoore326/34981348496/in/photostream/
The bill to begin the process of renaming Dixie State University has cleared the Legislature. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, March 3, 2021

State

Switching Parties For Primaries? Think Again

The Utah Legislature passed a bill Wednesday that limits when voters can switch their party affiliation in the run-up to a primary election. Under the legislation, if a voter switches parties after March 31, that switch would not take effect until after the primary election. Unaffiliated and new voters are allowed to register with a new party during that time. It’s a response to calls from some well-known Democrats last year for party members to join the GOP in order to vote in the gubernatorial primary for a more moderate candidate. However, according to an analysis from Princeton University, the growth in the party before the primary “was driven by new registrations and re-registration by unaffiliated voters, with little crossover registration from Democrats into the Republican party.” Read the full story.Sonja Hutson

Statewide Pandemic Restriction In The Endgame Now

An end to statewide pandemic restrictions is in sight after the Utah House passed a bill Wednesday outlining a timeline. If two-thirds of House and Senate members support the bill — and the governor signs it — Utah’s statewide mask mandate would end immediately. However, school mask requirements wouldn’t end until July 1. Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said the bill stemmed from negotiations between the legislature, governor’s office and the state health department. Rep. Suzanne Harrison, D-Sandy, is a member of Utah’s Medical Association. She called the bill government overreach and said it should be left to healthcare professionals. A county council could vote to keep a local mask mandate, if they wanted it. Read the full story.Emily Means

Tighter Restrictions Coming To Utah’s Troubled Teen Industry

The Utah Legislature voted Tuesday night to increase regulations on the state's teen treatment industry. Two efforts to amend the bill on the floor failed. Those included one from Rep. Rex Shipp, R-Cedar City, who proposed adding language that would allow staff to inflict pain on a child if it was deemed necessary to protect an individual’s health or safety. The vote comes after months of sustained activism over alleged abuse inside youth residential treatment facilities in the state. Read the full story.David Fuchs

Colorado River Authority Could Soon Become Reality

Utah is just a few steps away from having its own authority to handle the state’s interests in the Colorado River. The bill to create the Colorado River Authority passed the Utah Senate Wednesday with overwhelming support. It passed the House last month 61 to 12. The authority will comprise six members. They will help Utah renegotiate water rights with the other Colorado River Basin states. Those in favor of the bill say it’s important for Utah to have a commission that will stake its claim to the dwindling river. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Utah Health Officials Report 729 New COVID-19 Cases

Utah’s Department of Health reported 729 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday. The week-long average is 590 cases a day and the percent of positive tests is also now under 5%. Seven more people have died from the virus, and one previous death was retracted. So far, the state has administered more than 750,000 doses of the vaccine. — Caroline Ballard

Utah’s January Unemployment Numbers

Utah’s unemployment rate was about 3% in January. That’s according to data released Wednesday by the state. The national rate for January was a little higher than 6%. Summit County saw the largest percentage of job loss year over year. Daggett County had the most growth percentage wise. Despite the pandemic, Utah’s private sector actually added jobs.The professional and business services industry led the way. — Ross Terrell

Repeal Of Bail Reform Law Clears Major Hurdles

A bill to repeal a major bail reform law has passed the state Legislature and is now on to the governor’s desk. The reform law went into effect in October. It requires judges to release people accused of low-level crimes using the least restrictive condition. Supporters of the repeal said smaller counties have had trouble implementing the law. Critics of it said bail reform is working well in the three largest counties that process the bulk of the state’s criminal cases and they argue the old cash bail system is inequitable. — Sonja Hutson

Southern Utah

Dixie State University Moves A Step Closer To Starting Renaming Process

The bill to begin the process of renaming Dixie State University has cleared the Legislature. The Senate approved it Wednesday 26-3 and it was concurred in the House. The amended bill no longer requires “Dixie” to be dropped and allows for more community input. Sen. John Johnson, R-Ogden, voted against it. He said he’s worried about the name change debate being a part of “cancel culture.” The name Dixie has come under fire because of its ties to the confederacy. The bill calls for the university to form a committee to recommend a new name, and one has to be presented to the Legislature by Nov. 1. — Lexi Peery, St. George