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AM News Brief: Work requirements for Medicaid, drug trafficking sentences & medical cannabis suit

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Sen. Mitt Romney and some of his colleagues have introduced a bill to let states add work requirements to Medicaid. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Wednesday morning, Dec. 15, 2021

State

Romney looks to add work requirements to Medicaid

Sen. Mitt Romney and some of his colleagues have introduced a bill to let states add work requirements to Medicaid according to a press release Tuesday. The Biden administration began withdrawing approval of medicaid work requirements in states across the country in February 2021. The administration sent lengthy letters to states detailing the risks of added eligibility requirements. The Let States Innovate Under Medicaid Act would prohibit administrators from blocking these requirements on the basis that they don’t “further the objectives of the Medicaid program.” Romney said the bill will give states like Utah “more freedom and flexibility to best manage their Medicaid program.” — Leah Treidler

Librarians release e-book to address censorship by parents

Amid the growing calls from parents to remove books from Utah schools due to inappropriate materials, Utah librarians have released a 20-page e-book to help address and navigate the issue. The new guide includes tips for parents on how to talk to kids about difficult topics, frequently asked questions about censorship and the role of libraries. Peter Bromberg, co-chair for the Utah Library Association, said libraries are often safe havens for students, but recently they’ve become political battle grounds. He said censorship has always existed, but hopefully the new e-book can give some perspective and guidance to parents. Read the full story.Ivana Martinez

Northern Utah

Utah drug trafficker sentenced to prison

A judge sentenced a prominent Utah drug trafficker to 14 years in prison last Tuesday according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney. Joseph “Norte Joe” Gomez was the lead defendant of a large-scale federal indictment of the Norteños street gang. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and launder money. The Norteños have worked with Mexican drug cartels to distribute drugs around the Salt Lake Valley for decades. They’ve been responsible for drive-by shootings, robberies and homicides. Investigators say there are over 100 active gang members in the Salt Lake Valley. The 32-defendant trial came after a years-long, intensive investigation of the gang. The other defendants also pleaded guilty to similar charges. — Leah Treidler

Firefighter sues city after being suspended for cannabis use

A Utah firefighter who uses medical marijuana for chronic back pain has sued the city of Ogden. He says he was unlawfully suspended from duty for refusing to surrender his prescription card. The Standard Examiner reported that Levi Coleman said the fire department and city discriminated against him in violation of the Utah Medical Cannabis Act. The city's chief administrative officer said the city has concerns with the use of controlled substances by public safety workers. The President of Professional Firefighters of Utah told the Salt Lake Tribune they are helping represent Coleman because the city is not following state law. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Indigenous people will receive compensation for abuse at Canadian boarding schools

The Canadian government will set aside billions of dollars to compensate Indigenous people who faced abuse as children in the country’s residential schools. The announcement follows several weeks of negotiations between the government and Indigenous groups. It also follows two class action lawsuits by the Assembly of First Nations that sought compensation for harms inflicted on Indigenous people. The plan’s price tag is equal to about $31 billion. No such financial plans have been announced by the United States. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

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