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PM News Brief: Redistricting Commission defends their work, fentanyl deaths are on the rise & Utah House member charged with poaching

A photo of Rex Facer, the chair of the Utah Independent Redistricting Commission.
Emily Means
/
KUER
Rex Facer, the chair of the independent redistricting commission, said he was saddened by Rob Bishop’s departure, but it won’t impact their work going forward. This story and more in Tuesday evening's news brief.

Tuesday evening, Oct. 26, 2021

State

COVID-19 positive test rate rising

Utah’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is now as high as it was in mid-January, during last winter’s surge in cases. According to the Utah Department of Health, it’s currently at 11%. The seven-day average of new cases has also been creeping up — now at 1,520. The department reported 1,614 new COVID cases Tuesday; 20% of them were school-age children. Another 10 people have died of COVID-19 — four women and six men. — Caroline Ballard

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Northern Utah

Redistricting Commission defends their work

On Tuesday, Utah’s Independent Redistricting Commission responded to former Congressman Rob Bishop’s resignation from the group. Bishop abruptly announced he was quitting during their meeting Monday. He said he was frustrated with the potential for bias in favor of urban areas, since most of the commissioners are from the Wasatch Front. Rex Facer, the chair of the commission, said he was saddened by Bishop’s departure, but it won’t impact their work going forward. He also defended the process as “very transparent," with great effort to encourage public participation. “The public has been engaged in a way they never have been in redistricting,” Facer said. “And I think we're better for that.” The commission has adopted 12 maps, which they will present to the legislature on Monday. — Emily Means

Southern Utah

Dixie State sticks with building name honoring LDS leader

Dixie State University said it will not remove a prominent religious leader's name from a campus building. The Jeffrey R. Holland Centennial Commons houses the library, classrooms and places for students to congregate. It is named after an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of the school's LGBTQ+ student association asked for Holland’s name to be removed because of recent comments he made. During an August address, Holland told Brigham Young University faculty to defend the Church's stance against same-sex marriage. He also criticized a BYU alum who came out as gay during his valedictorian speech in 2019. — Martha Harris

Utah House member charged with poaching

A Utah legislator has been charged with poaching and unlawful discharge of a firearm. The Millard County Attorney's Office filed three Class B misdemeanor charges against Rep. Travis Seegmiller, R-St. George. Seegmiller is accused of shooting a deer on private property in August. Witnesses allege he shot the animal from the road while in his car. Wildlife officials said he did not have permission from the homeowner to hunt on their property. — Martha Harris

New Zion Park transit system on Kane County ballot

Kane County residents are voting on a new transit system that could change access to Zion National Park. If voters approve it, a new electric bus system would connect visitors to the east side of the park. It’s a new step in big plans for the area. Kane County Commissioner Brent Chamberlain said local, state and private leaders want to add more infrastructure, but some residents are against the transit proposal. Kanab City mayoral candidate Colten Johnson said he doesn’t want to see the land overrun with tourists. Supporters say the new transit authority proposal would not increase local taxes. Commissioner Chamberlain said state and federal grants will pay for it. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

Fentanyl deaths rising in Mountain West

Law enforcement officials say overdose deaths caused by the synthetic opioid fentanyl have risen sharply across the Mountain West. That’s partially because drug use overall went up during the pandemic. Fentanyl is also showing up in other substances, however, and it only takes a tiny amount of the drug to kill. Last year, Colorado saw overdose deaths from synthetic opioids more than double. New Mexico has the region’s largest problem with opioids; they caused about two-thirds of overdose deaths in 2019. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

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