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AM News Brief: Republican lawmaker’s resignation, climate change and controlled burns & Utah’s investment in kids

Rear view of schoolgirl raising her arm to answer the question in the classroom.
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A report from Voices for Utah Children finds the state is spending more money on kids, but education funding is still lagging behind. This story and more in Friday morning's news brief.

Friday morning, Dec. 10, 2021.

Northern Utah

Salt Lake residents should prepare for heavy snow

According to the National Weather Service, Salt Lake Valley residents should expect the year’s first snow to continue Friday. Officials expect it to be heaviest in the morning, likely continuing until 4 p.m. The Utah Highway Patrol advises caution while driving on the slippery roads. They said they’ve handled over 200 weather-related crashes since the storm began Thursday. — Leah Treidler

Mayor Mendenhall said Salt Lake City is overburdened by homelessness issue

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said the capital city is shouldering too much of the burden of homelessness, and has drawn the line at adding another permanent shelter. Jean Hill with the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness pushed back against Mendenhall’s position Wednesday during a panel hosted by KUER’s RadioWest. She said she was “really concerned that we're always pitting residents against the homeless because I think we have to recognize that homeless people are residents, too, and they don't have a voice and they aren't heard.” Hill said other cities could step up by contributing funding to help provide resources for unsheltered people.. — Emily Means

Southern Utah

Rep. Lowry Snow will not seek re-election

State Representative Lowry Snow announced Tuesday he won’t seek re-election at the end of his current term. The Republican has served House District 74 in St. George since 2012. In a statement on social media, Snow said that it was a difficult decision, but he believes elected officials should eventually step aside to allow others to contribute. St. George News reports that while serving, Snow passed a bill to shorten the amount of time detention centers can hold youth offenders and sponsored legislation to increase the penalties on people who kill police dogs. Two people have already announced their bid for the position including the director of Washington County Children’s Justice Center Kristy Pike and the CEO of Brokers Holdings Neil Walter. — Mori Kessler, St. George News

This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aims to inform readers across the state.

Conservationists say Biden isn’t doing enough to curb pollution near parks

Several conservation groups in Utah are suing the Environmental Protection Agency. They say the Biden administration isn’t doing enough to curb air pollution in the state’s national parks. Former President Donald Trump weakened the regional haze rule — a decades-long effort to cut fossil fuel emissions near the nation’s parks — and environmental groups say the Biden administration isn’t planning on fixing it. Alex Veilleux, with Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, said they hoped controls on smokestacks at coal power plants would be put back in place. Cory MacNulty, with the National Parks Conservation Association, said this pollution harms visitors, wildlife and local communities. She expects an official decision from the EPA as soon as Friday. Read the full story.Lexi Peery, St. George

State

Utah invested more money in kids

A new report from Voices for Utah Children found the state spent more money on kids in fiscal year 2020 than it has in the past 12 years, but education funding is still falling behind. The group released its findings Thursday, which breaks state programs concerning children into seven categories. A little more than 91% of child-related funding went towards K-12 education, but Utah’s per-pupil spending still ranked 49th in the country. Still, the advocacy organization said the good news is the state is now investing more in the next generation than it’s ever recorded before. — Martha Harris

Region/Nation

Climate change is postponing prescribed burns

This fall’s dry conditions delayed the start of controlled burns, a critical tool for reducing the risk of extreme fire in the year ahead. Crews often set fires on purpose during the wet season to reduce the amount of trees, brush and other fuels available to burn later on. Officials are expanding the practice after more than a century of aggressive suppression, but as climate change makes our region hotter and drier, they could see fewer days with the right conditions. Still, Tim Brown with the Desert Research Institute said drought conditions can also make it easier to start prescribed fires — which can improve biodiversity and the resilience of the landscape. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

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