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AM News Brief: Tithing Lawsuit Tossed, Tourists Sue Utah For Bus Crash & Afghan Refugees To Arrive In October

Photo of Welcome to Utah sign.
Brian Albers

Thursday morning, Sept. 16, 2021


Call To Continue Drought State Of Emergency

Utah leaders declared a state of emergency earlier this year because of drought conditions. Now, the head of the Department of Natural Resources is asking for it to be extended. Brian Steed, executive director of DNR, discussed drought conditions at the Legislature’s natural resources interim committee meeting Wednesday. He said drought should be a “top priority” for the state. That includes continuing the emergency declaration past it’s Oct. 31 expiration date. Some lawmakers in attendance agreed with Steed, but Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, said he’s against extending it because he is concerned about being in a “perpetual state of emergency.” Currently, 88% of Utah is in extreme or exceptional drought. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

State Department Approves Utah For Afghan Refugees

Utah is expecting 765 Afghan refugees in the coming months. Right now, most of them are at military bases in the United States, but will begin arriving in October. In a press release, the governor’s office said the refugees have already received security and medical screenings as well as vaccinations. When they arrive in Utah, they will be eligible to work and receive employment assistance from the Department of Workforce Services. The State Department is also giving them a small amount of what’s called “Reception and Placement” money. Gov. Spencer Cox said Utah is also looking to humanitarian groups, private sector leaders and citizens to help in the resettlement efforts. — Elaine Clark

Southern Utah

Chinese Tourists Sue Utah For Fatal Bus Crash

Family and survivors of a bus crash that killed four Chinese tourists say the state of Utah didn’t do enough to make sure a remote highway was safe. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, they said the state failed to post warning signs, had a road design that left little room for error and included no rumble strip to warn drivers. More than a dozen people were thrown from the bus after the driver drifted off the road and overcorrected when he steered back, sending the bus into a rollover. The Utah Department of Transportation declined to comment. U.S. regulators have already ruled out highway design, signage and other characteristics as factors in the crash. — Associated Press


Judge Throws Out Tithing Lawsuit

A judge has tossed out a lawsuit filed against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. James Huntsman is a member of one of Utah’s most prominent families and brother of a former governor. He had accused the Church of fraud and sought to recover millions of dollars in contributions. A judge decided Tuesday that no reasonable juror would believe that Latter-day Saint leaders made false statements about how tithing funds would be used. A church spokesperson said the church is “grateful” for the judge's decision. Huntsman’s attorney David Jonelis said they intend to appeal. — Associated Press

Feds Consider Protections For Gray Wolves

The Biden administration says federal protections may need to be restored for gray wolves in the western U.S. after Republican-led states made it much easier to kill the predators. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday that the region’s wolves face new potential perils after a decades-long restoration was capped by their return to state management. Republican lawmakers in Montana and Idaho are intent on culling wolf packs blamed for periodic attacks on livestock and reducing deer and elk herds that hunters prize. Wildlife advocates had asked the Biden administration to intervene. Montana's Republican governor says officials in Washington shouldn't second guess the state's wolf policies. — Associated Press

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