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PM News Brief: Threats Over Masks, State Treasurer Resignation & Biden’s Boost For Conservation Funding

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Brian Grimmett
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Utah’s state treasurer announced Monday that he will resign at the end of the month. This story and more in Monday evening's news brief.

Monday evening, April 12, 2021

State

New Utah Voting Laws

Several new Utah voting laws will take effect next month. The most substantial of them were brought on by concerns Republicans had about recent elections in Utah — not national Republican issues. One requires paid signature gatherers for initiatives and referenda to be paid hourly. Another 2021 law makes it harder for voters to affiliate with a political party close to a primary election. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

COVID-19 Numbers

The Utah Department of Health reported no deaths but 185 new COVID-19 cases Monday. The state’s test positivity rate is now at 3.7% — up slightly since this time last week. Officials also said 122 people are currently hospitalized with the disease. Vaccination efforts continue, with more than 1.7 million doses administered so far in Utah. — Caroline Ballard

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Utah Treasurer Resigns

Utah’s state treasurer announced Monday that he will resign at the end of the month. David Damschen has served as treasurer since 2016, and was re-elected for a second full term this past November. He is leaving to head the Utah Housing Corporation, which provides financing for affordable housing. Gov. Spencer Cox will appoint an interim state treasurer to serve until the next general election in 2022. — Caroline Ballard

Northern Utah

Threats Over Private Mask Requirements Lead To Arrests

Over the weekend, two Utah businesses received threats of violence after asking customers to wear masks. The state-wide mask mandate ended Saturday, but businesses can still enforce the use of masks though. The Utah Transit Authority Police arrested a man on Saturday who threatened a train host, and a Salt Lake City clothing store closed Sunday shortly after a customer threatened to shoot employees. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said these behaviors will not be tolerated. “It’s still illegal to threaten people’s lives and we will hold these people accountable. It’s completely unacceptable,” he said. Cox said he’s working with law enforcement and the director of public safety to address these issues. — Ivana Martinez

State’s First Electric School Buses Roll Out

The Salt Lake City School District rolled out the state's first electric school buses Monday, partnering with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality to reduce the use of diesel-powered vehicles on school routes. School officials said these first four buses are operating in areas with high pollution levels on the west side of Salt Lake City. The district has plans to add more electric buses in the future. — Ivana Martinez

Region/Nation

Biden Plan Boosts Funding For Conservation

Friday, the Biden administration unveiled its budget plan for managing the nation’s public lands. It contains big funding boosts for conservation, including three times the funding for the cleanup of abandoned oil and gas wells across the region. It would also pump millions of dollars into the creation of a Civilian Climate Corps to put Americans to work restoring public lands. The plan broadly supports a goal known in conservation circles as "30 by 30." That's an effort to curb the effects of climate change and development by protecting 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. A more detailed report from the Interior Department on its 30 by 30 efforts is expected later this month. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau