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PM News Brief: Protesters lawsuit, more than 3,000 COVID deaths & mental health leave

Photo of a large crowd of people in protective face masks. Some are holding signs, some are holding their hands up.
Kelsie Moore for KUER
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More than a dozen people involved in a Salt Lake City protest last year have filed a federal lawsuit against the city government. This story and more in Tuesday evening's news brief.

Tuesday evening, Oct. 12, 2021

State

Aggressive air quality bills coming to State Capitol  

An aggressive air quality bill is coming to Utah’s Capitol Hill next year. Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, announced Tuesday he plans to run legislation that could cut emissions in Utah by 50% by 2030. It includes more expensive registration fees for high polluting cars, new green building standards, and a cap-and-trade program — a system where companies can buy the ability to pollute from businesses that are under a maximum level set by the state. The legislation also creates a fund using fees from big polluters to help pay for certain medical expenses. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson 

Mental health leave for some state employees

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox issued an executive order Tuesday aimed at helping some state employees address their mental health. It gives all state executive branch employees four hours of paid leave per fiscal year to address their mental health issues. It also clarifies that sick time can be used for mental health reasons. Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson each signed the order. Cox said in a statement we need to shift the way things like anxiety and depression are talked about. Henderson shared similar sentiments saying the pandemic has brought the importance of mental health to the forefront. The new benefit will be implemented on Jan. 1 of 2022. — Ross Terrell

Utah surpasess 3,000 COVID deaths 

Utah has passed another grim milestone when it comes to COVID-19. More than 3,000 Utahns have now died from the virus. There were 31 more deaths reported since Oct. 8 — four of them were people younger than 45. The Utah Department of Health reported 4,366 new cases Tuesday. That's also a four-day total dating back to Friday. The week-long test positivity rate is now 10.4%. Nearly 600 people are currently hospitalized with COVID. — Caroline Ballard

Northern Utah

Provo residents share concerns at redistricting meeting 

The Utah Independent Redistricting Commission held a public hearing in Provo last week. They’ve been instructed to preserve "communities of interest" but it's up to them to define what that means. For Provo — that means considering 34 different neighborhoods. Right now, some of them are split between different state House districts. Some residents who spoke at the meeting said the uniqueness of each neighborhood “ought to be preserved" throughout the redistricting process. Residents also expressed broader concerns of gerrymandering. Read the full story. Martha Harris

Salt Lake City protesters file lawsuit against city 

More than a dozen people involved in a Salt Lake City protest last year have filed a federal lawsuit against the city government. They argue a curfew order put in place by Mayor Erin Mendenhall last May violated their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and assembly. The complaint said that led to unlawful arrests. Some of the plaintiffs also allege police used excessive force when they shot them with rubber bullets while protesting. They’re seeking financial compensation from the city and have requested a jury trial. — Emily Means 

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