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AM News Brief: Utah lawmaker resignation, Salt Lake microtransit expansion & call for emergency gray wolf protections

Sparrow_and_Aspen,_Gray_Wolves,_Wolf_Park_(51096442738).jpg
Raed Mansour
/
Wikimedia Commons
A group of Democratic lawmakers is calling for emergency protection of gray wolves in the U.S. west. They are urging the Biden administration to enact the measure immediately. This story and more in Friday morning's news brief.

Friday morning, Oct. 29, 2021

State

One county, one state Senate seat?

Some rural Utahns want each county represented by one state Senate seat. The problem is that it’s illegal under the U.S. Constitution. Courts have ruled that unless the population is roughly the same in each county, that proposal violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which requires equal protection under the law. Some want the state to try to overturn that legal precedent, but it doesn't seem like a battle the Legislature is keen on taking up. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Christiansen leaves Utah House seat

Rep. Steve Christiansen, R-West Jordan, announced Thursday night he is resigning from the Utah Legislature. Christiansen has been pushing for an independent forensic audit of the 2020 election. He was also pursuing a bill that would water down vote by mail and eliminate vote counting machines. In his resignation letter, Christiansen said he was leaving because his wife is being harassed over his work in the Legislature. Christiansen’s letter also states he’s resigning from his job with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, saying he doesn't want his political views to be confused as representing the Church. The Utah Democratic Party said in a statement they condemn attacks on politicians’ families, but Christiansen’s exit is “a win for democracy.” — Sonja Hutson

Microtransit expands to Salt Lake’s west side

The Utah Transit Authority announced Thursday it will pilot its On Demand microtransit service on Salt Lake City’s west side. It uses an app to match riders heading in a similar direction with a transit option like a van. There is also a phone number to call if a rider doesn’t have a smartphone. Currently On Demand is only available in southern Salt Lake County. The service will be available in Rose Park, Fair Park, Poplar Grove and Glendale starting December 13. — Caroline Ballard

Utah nurse sentenced in opioid case

A former Utah nurse has been found guilty of drug-related charges and sentenced to three years in federal prison. Nathan Pehrson of Sandy, 41, was convicted of three counts related to fraudulently obtaining and tampering with the painkiller hydromorphone. The Department of Justice says it's a powerful Schedule II opioid drug used to treat patients with moderate to severe pain. Pehrson was sentenced to 36 months in federal prison and 36 months of federal supervised release. A jury had previously found that during Pehrson's stint as a nurse on a surgical and trauma ward, he diverted the drug from pre-loaded syringes for his personal use. He then replaced the pain medication with saline solution before placing it back into circulation for use on patients. Pehrson's actions were discovered by other medical staff. — Pamela McCall

Region/Nation

Local governments give employees cash for getting vaccinated

Some local governments in the Mountain West are offering financial incentives to employees who get vaccinated against COVID-19. The programs range from $100-500, and are meant to boost low vaccination rates. Earlier this year, Natrona County in central Wyoming had some of the highest vaccine hesitancy rates in the country. Since the city of Casper offered a cash incentive, about half of its full time employees have taken advantage of the program. Here in Utah, Salt Lake County employees can receive up to $500 through its vaccine incentive program. And just this week, the Denver City Council approved a program to give employees $400 if they complied with the city’s vaccine mandate. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

Call for emergency wolf protections

A group of Democratic lawmakers is calling for emergency protection of gray wolves in the U.S. west. They are urging the Biden administration to enact the measure immediately. Twenty-one U.S. senators asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland Thursday to shield wolves from being killed for 240 days while permanent protections are considered. The request comes in response to Republican-backed laws in Montana and Idaho that make it easier to kill the predators. In recent decades, wolves have bounced back from widespread extermination in the last century. With hunts in the region ongoing, a federal wildlife agency spokesperson told the Associated Press that emergency wolf protections remain on the table. — Associated Press

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