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AM News Brief: Fresh Fruit For Utah Kids, Newer Homes Mean Less Smoke & Utah County Attorney Abandons Death Penalty

Sandwiches, fruits and vegetables in food box, backpack on old wooden background.
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Utah elementary kids will have more fruit and vegetable snacks this school year thanks to $3.45 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This story and more in the Thursday morning news brief.

Thursday morning, Sept. 9, 2021

State

Program Adds Fruit And Veggies To Kids Snack Time

Utah elementary kids will have more fruit and vegetable snacks this school year thanks to $3.45 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The program pays for produce outside of lunch and breakfast at low-income schools and will benefit 49,000 Utah children. The USDA also recognized South Sanpete School District and Guadalupe School in Salt Lake City as VIP Award winners for their administration of the program and boosted their funding for this year. — Elaine Clark

Northern Utah

Utah County Attorney Abandons Death Penalty

Utah County Attorney David Leavitt announced Wednesday he will no longer seek the death penalty in future cases. In a video, Leavitt said capital punishment does not promote the community’s safety and that the cost of seeking the death penalty outweighs its benefits. He said “pretending that the death penalty will somehow curb crime is simply a lie,” and what needs to happen instead is education and prevention before crimes occur. Leavitt’s decision came the day after two Utah lawmakers unveiled their bill to repeal and replace the state’s death penalty. Their legislation would give prosecutors the ability to seek a 45-years-to-life sentence. — Ross Terrell

Health Care Company Boosts Its Minimum Wage

Steward Health Care, which operates more than a dozen locations along the Wasatch Front, is raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour. The change will go into effect later this month and affect roughly 350 Utah-based employees. In a statement, the company said its workers have been loyal and dedicated throughout the pandemic. “We are committed to ensuring that we compensate our valued staff fittingly,” said Steward’s Western Region president Brian Dunn. In late August, Intermountain Healthcare announced it was raising its base pay to $15 an hour. Their change will affect more than 2,000 employees and also starts later this month. The federal and state minimum wage is still $7.25 cents an hour. — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

Water Limiting New Developments In Washington County

Washington County is one of the fastest-growing areas of Utah, but some local leaders are worried about new development and the county’s water supply. The county commission tabled two requests to change zoning this week that would have allowed for higher residential density in a rural part of the county. Commission Chair Gil Almquist said developers will need to do more homework to prove there’s enough water. Zach Renstrom, the general manager of the Washington County Water Conservancy District, said there’s enough water for now, but they're still working on more infrastructure projects. Renstrom said he’s also working with cities to put strict conservation measures in place for all new developments. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Election Cancelled In Escalante

Escalante City has canceled its municipal election this coming November. Mayor Melani Torgersen and Council Members Chad Lyman and Dan’l Lindsay were all running unopposed. The city doesn't have any ballot propositions either. The ranching community of 850 people is on Highway 12 in Garfield County. — Elaine Clark

Region/Nation

Petitioners Seek SCOTUS Ruling On Native Adoptions

The U.S. Supreme Court has been asked to review a case on adoptions of Native children that centers on whether Native American families should receive preference in those adoptions. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a sharply divided ruling in April over the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, the 1978 law that gives Native American families priority in foster care and adoption proceedings. The appeals court upheld the law and Congress' authority to enact it, but the judges invalidated some of its placement preferences and found some provisions unconstitutionally control the duties of state officials in adoption matters. Four petitions seek review from SCOTUS. — Associated Press

Better Construction Means Better Smoke Protection

There's growing evidence that the traditional public health advice of staying indoors during smoky days is not enough to stay safe. Smoke and its particulate matter are getting into our homes, schools, and office buildings. New research from U.C. Berkeley found that newer buildings and those constructed with central air conditioning were much better at keeping wildfire smoke out. But researchers still emphasize the need for proper ventilation, like an air purifier with true HEPA filters. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau