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PM News Brief: More Bills Signed, Obamacare Subsidies & Leading Utah’s GOP

A photo of Gov. Spencer Cox at a ceremonial signing.
Utah State Office of the Governor/Utah State Office of the Governor
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Gov. Spencer Cox signed 56 bills into law Monday. One is a resolution to encourage the federal government to work with state leaders regarding the creation of national monuments. This story and more in Monday evening's news brief.

Monday evening, March 22, 2021

State

Gov. Spencer Cox Signed 56 Bills In Rural Utah

Gov. Spencer Cox signed 56 bills into law Monday. One is a resolution to encourage the federal government to work with state leaders regarding the creation of national monuments. The measure comes after President Joe Biden directed federal agencies to review the size of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. Cox also approved a bill that creates a $75 million fund for inland port projects. Opponents of the port had petitioned Cox to veto the bill. The governor has until Thursday to sign or veto bills. So far he has signed 446. — Emily Means

159 New COVID-19 Cases Reported Monday

Utah health officials announced just 159 new COVID-19 cases Monday. It’s partly a factor of lower testing. Officials reported an increase of about 4,100 tests. In the three days before that, the state averaged about 13,000 daily tests. Mondays have typically had the lowest case count of the week. The state’s positivity rate remains right around 4%. The CDC also reported one case of the Japanese or Brazilian variant of COVID has been found in Utah. — Ross Terrell

Candidates Begin Announcing Interest To Lead Utah GOP

The chair of the Utah Republican Party said last week he would not seek another term. Now, others are stepping up to declare their intentions for the statewide seat. Scott Miller announced Monday he will run for the position. He is the current chair of the Salt Lake County GOP and said he wants to bring his strategy statewide. Rancher Carson Jorgensen announced his candidacy last week. Jorgensen has built a social media following and said the party needs to expand its reach online. The filing deadline for party offices is April 1 and the new chair will be elected during the party’s organizing convention on May 1. — Caroline Ballard

180,000 Utahns Could Have Expanded Healthcare Subsidies

The latest federal coronavirus relief package made more people eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. For about 180,000 Utahns, that means cheaper healthcare using federal tax credits. Sarah Leetham, with the Utah Health Policy Project, said the subsidies should help fill holes. “Folks that are the most vulnerable or maybe in some of these coverage gaps, these new subsidy guidelines really do extend those options for poor, vulnerable people,” Leetham said. But the new credits are not automatically applied. Leetham said to get them, people have to log back in to their account and choose to have the subsidies added. For people who need help making changes to their application, visit takecareutah.org — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

Huntsman Mental Health Institute To Increase Rural Access To Care

Rural mental health services in Utah could get a boost from new funding. The non-profit healthcare organization Cambia Health Solutions recently donated $1 million to the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. In a release last week, the institute said the money will be used to create new services for underserved communities. Utah consistently ranks poorly among states when it comes to the prevalence of mental health issues and access to mental healthcare and rural areas tend to have even less access to care. — Caroline Ballard

Kane County Signals It Will Ignore Statewide Mask Mandate

The Kane County Commission has issued a statement saying masks aren’t required in the county. But the statewide mandate is still in effect. The statement from the commission comes after they asked the state to change their transmission index from high to low earlier this month. Kane County Attorney Rob Van Dyke said this latest statement is about pointing out how meaningless statewide orders are. However, some residents say the move by the commission is irresponsible. Read the full story.Lexi Peery, St. George.

Region/Nation

Health Officials May Turn To Employers To Encourage Vaccines

As health officials battle vaccine hesitancy and reluctance around masks and social distancing, they could turn to business employers for help. While trust in public officials and journalists has gone down, the global firm Edelman found that people’s trust in their own employer is still relatively high, at 68%. That’s true on both ends of the political spectrum. Because of this, experts believe employers could play a big role in educating and encouraging workers to get vaccines, even if they don’t recommend vaccine requirements. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau