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AM News Brief: Cox Veto, Lawsuit Claims LDS Church Misspent Donations & The Healing Sounds Of Nature

A photo of Spencer Cox wearing a face mask.
Spencer Heaps
/
Deseret News
Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed his first bill Tuesday. This story and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, March 24, 2021

State

Cox Vetoes Social Media Bill

Gov. Spencer Cox vetoed his first bill Tuesday. Dubbed “Electronic Free Speech Amendments,” it was intended to address what the sponsors viewed as censorship by social media companies. A press release from the governor’s office said it was a “friendly” veto and had consent from legislative leaders and the bill’s sponsors. Cox also signed another 10 bills into law. One of them requires smartphones that are sold in Utah to have a content filter that blocks pornographic images, a bill critics argue is unconstitutional. The governor supported another bill that increases restrictions on paid signature gathering for ballot initiatives. — Emily Means

Planning For More Refugees

President Joe Biden is expected to sign legislation that would allow more refugees into the United States. That means refugee-friendly Utah could see an increase in resettlements this year. Aden Batar of Catholic Community Services in Salt Lake City said Utah is one of the most welcoming states because of its religious and pioneer history. “Refugees are escaping violence and persecution like the Utahns themselves have experienced centuries ago,” Batar said. Over the last year, the U.S. has restricted access to asylum seekers because of COVID-19 regulations. Batar said it’s time for the United States to take a leadership role in the refugee crisis. — Ivana Martinez

Honoring Boulder Victims

Gov. Spencer Cox has authorized the lowering of flags on all state facilities to honor the victims of Monday’s shooting in Boulder, Colorado. A statement from the Governor's office said private citizens and businesses are encouraged to participate as well. State buildings are to have flags flown half staff through sunset Saturday. The action follows President Joe Biden's proclamation Tuesday, which said it is a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence. — Bob Nelson

Lawsuit Claims Church Misspent Donations

A member of Utah’s well-known Huntsman family is accusing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of fraud. James Huntsman's federal lawsuit says the Church spent members' donations that were solicited for charity on commercial purposes and referred to the whistleblower revelation that the Church has $100 billion in an investment fund. He's seeking to recover millions of dollars in contributions in the suit filed Monday. Huntsman alleges the Church has "repeatedly and publicly lied" about the use of billions of dollars in donations. A Church spokesman calls the claims "baseless." James Huntsman is a brother of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and son of late billionaire philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. — Associated Press

Southern Utah

Zion Development Could Mean Boon To Nearby Communities

Visitation at Zion National Park increased almost 50% from 2014 to 2019 according to a recent report from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Institute. In 2019, park visitors spent a record $250 million plus in nearby Kane and Washington counties. The report says development around the east entrance to Zion could mean even more spending in the future. It could also bring hundreds of new jobs to surrounding counties over the next decade. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

Romney Plan Would Incentivize More Children

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, said he’s worried about the drop in birth rates and wants to incentivize Americans to have more children. His Family Security Act would pay couples up to $350 per child each month. He discussed his plan during a panel Tuesday hosted by the Sutherland Institute, a Utah-based conservative think tank. Conservatives have compared it to universal basic income — an idea usually put forth by progressives. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Healing Sounds Of Nature

A new study shows that listening to nature could have significant health benefits. Colorado State University, Michigan State University, Carleton University and the National Park Service worked together on the project. They aggregated research that showed how just listening to natural sounds can improve your health. Those benefits ranged from alleviating stress and improving cognitive functioning to reducing surgery patients' pain. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau