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AM News Brief: Pride Plans, Adoptee Citizenship & The Cost Of Jail Phone Calls

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Kellie Parker
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Flickr CC
The Utah Pride Center said it will not hold a Pride festival or parade in Salt Lake City this summer. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, March 5, 2021

State

Capping County Jail Phone Charges

The Utah Legislature approved a bill Thursday that caps phone rates for people in county jails. The current rate varies by correctional facility. Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, said he struggled with this issue when his father was incarcerated. “When I would give my dad $10 or $15 so that he could load his phone card while he was in the county jail,” Kitchen said, “if he moved, that may be enough money in one jail and not nearly enough in the other. I know this is a common occurrence.” Kitchen also said staying connected to loved ones helps reduce recidivism. The bill now goes to the governor for approval. — Emily Means

Mental Health Hotline

Utah’s Legislature passed a bill Thursday that forms a commission to study the state’s response to mental health emergencies. The group would help the state implement a crisis hotline designated as 988 and be tasked with making sure calls are being sent correctly to that hotline or to 911. The commission would be made up of healthcare officials, first responders and someone from a 911 call center. — Ivana Martinez

Northern Utah

Salt Lake County Community College Enrollment Drops

Many colleges across the country saw significant drops in enrollment because of the pandemic. Schools in Utah mostly held steady though, and some even saw more students attending compared to Fall 2019. But that’s not the case for Salt Lake Community College, which had the biggest enrollment drop of any public college in Utah — more than 7% of its students. Jeff Aird, a senior administrator at the school, said enrollment has been falling for the past decade, partly because the school has a more diverse student population than other Utah schools, so more have to work or are the first in their families to attend college. He said even at a community college, cost is one of the biggest reasons they leave. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Pride Organizers Plan With Pandemic Cautions

The Utah Pride Center said it will not hold a Pride festival or parade in Salt Lake City this summer. In a release Thursday, the organization said it felt it was still too soon for such an event given the pandemic. But it is planning some outdoor and distanced celebrations the first week of June. Those include a flag raising and pride month proclamation, an outdoor interactive exhibit on Washington Square, a rally, and a possible fireworks show. The pride parade and festival were postponed last summer as well due to COVID. — Caroline Ballard

Region/Nation

Adoptee Citizenship Bill Introduced

Reps. John Curtis, R-UT, and Adam Smith, D-WA, have introduced the bipartisan Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2021. It's meant to close a loophole that denies citizenship to adopted kids who were age 18 or over in February 2001. The new law would give U.S. citizenship to international adoptees brought here as children but never granted citizenship. Under current law, internationally-adopted children who are now adults can't become citizens. Curtis said the new law would give, "peace of mind to international adoptees and parents" and reunify many Utah families. — Bob Nelson

Navajo Nation COVID Update

The Navajo Department of Health reported 133 deaths and 161 new positive cases of COVID-19 over the past week. Navajo Nation Indian Health Service officials said nearly 76% of Nation residents have been vaccinated so far. A daily curfew remains in effect over the Nation's tri-state area from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., seven days a week. — Bob Nelson

Haaland Would Reconsider BLM Headquarters Location

A Senate committee vote Thursday brought Deb Haaland one step closer to becoming the nation’s next Interior Secretary. If she’s confirmed she’ll face a myriad of challenges, including whether to move the Bureau of Land Management headquarters from Colorado back to Washington D.C. Most Republicans in the West want the headquarters to stay in Grand Junction. They argue it makes sense to have federal employees closer to the Western public lands they manage. But former employees and environmental advocacy groups say the move was a ploy to gut the BLM and to reduce its power. Haaland said she has no immediate plans to do this, but will consider the idea if she is confirmed. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau