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PM News Brief: Law Enforcement Bills, Paul Petersen Sentenced & Dixie State Name Themes

A photo of law enforcement officers in riot gear at a protest.
Kelsie Moore
/
KUER
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a dozen bills related to police reform into law Wednesday. Most of the legislation increases data collection and training for law enforcement. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, April 21, 2021

State

What’s Behind The Administered Vaccine Drop Off?

Nearly 40% of Utah’s total population has had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. But the state’s seven-day average for vaccine doses administered has fallen by about 23% over the last week and a half. Rich Lakin, immunization director with the Utah Department of Health, said that suggests the state is now entering a more difficult phase on the road to herd immunity. Getting hesitant groups to sign up for shots requires a change in strategy, he said, shifting from mass vaccination sites to a more targeted approach — such as going to local businesses to vaccinate employees. Read the full story. Jon Reed

Gov. Spencer Cox Signs Batch Of Law Enforcement Bills

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a dozen bills related to police reform into law Wednesday. Most of the legislation increases data collection and training for law enforcement. It came in response to last year’s protests against police brutality. Cox said some people may think the new laws don’t have enough of an impact, while others might think they go too far. “But what we try to do here in Utah is to always be better,” he said. “To learn from our past mistakes and to improve.” Cox said lawmakers can support both law enforcement and those who have been negatively impacted by police. — Emily Means

Utah’s COVID-19 Update

Utah health officials reported 590 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday. That’s the second highest number in the month of April. Earlier this month, officials announced more than 600 in one day. Still, after hovering just below 4% for much of last week, the state’s test positivity rate has dropped to 3%. Hospitalizations are also slightly down compared to a week ago. Three more people have also died from the virus. — Ross Terrell

Paul Petersen Sentenced To Prison By Utah District Court

Utah’s third district court sentenced Paul Petersen to the maximum amount of prison time Wednesday. He faces one to 15 years after being convicted of human smuggling and communications fraud. Petersen ran an illegal adoption scheme bringing pregnant women from the Marshall Islands to the United States to have their babies. He also scammed Utah couples hoping to adopt out of tens of thousands of dollars. Petersen was the county assessor in Maricopa County, Arizona. He will serve between 11 to 15 years in prison total. His Utah sentence will run concurrently with other sentences from courts in Arizona and Arkansas. — Caroline Ballard

Northern Utah

Utah Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments In Inland Port Case

The Utah Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in an appeal over government power at the Inland Port. That’s the area in the western part of Salt Lake City that’s being developed into a massive distribution hub. The city sued the state in 2019 arguing it had taken away its ability to control taxes generated in the area and dictate zoning rules. City attorneys said the power was illegally given to the unelected Inland Port Authority Board, which has faced criticism for not being transparent with the public. A judge sided with the state in January. It’s not clear yet when a final decision in the appeal will be made. — Jon Reed

Southern Utah

Dixie State University Names Six Themes To Consider For Renaming University

The Dixie State University name recommendation committee has picked six themes to consider: St. George, Dixie, geological, academic mission, Deseret and Utah. The themes were identified from a survey sent out to the community about the university’s name. More than 14,400 people responded to it. Next, focus groups will be set up with more than 500 community members. They’ll collaborate on name options with those ideas in mind. The committee is planning to have recommendations for the university by the middle of June. The Washington County Commission also individually signed declarations Tuesday saying they don’t support removing “Dixie” from the school. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

President Joe Biden Meeting With World Leaders To Discuss Climate

President Joe Biden is meeting with world leaders Thursday to talk about climate change. The summit comes as he is considering establishing new goals to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% over the next decade. That could hit the West’s oil and gas producers hard but could also create new opportunities in wind, solar and nuclear sectors. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau