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AM News Brief: Psychotherapy drug task force, diversity in K-12 curricula & prohibiting local health orders

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Chad Davis
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Flickr/Chad Davis
Utah lawmakers have introduced a bill to prohibit mayors from using their emergency powers in response to a pandemic. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Tuesday morning, Jan. 18, 2022

State

Bill to prohibit local emergency health orders

Utah lawmakers have introduced a bill to prohibit mayors from using their emergency powers in response to a pandemic. It would also exempt state facilities from any local health orders. Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden and Rep. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, announced H.B. 182 Monday. It comes soon after the Salt Lake City mayor instated a mask mandate, and it follows an argument between the mayor and governor over whether the mandate applies to state buildings. The Utah legislature will convene Tuesday to kick off the 2022 general session. — Leah Treidler

Proposed task force to study psychotherapy drugs

Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Highland, introduced a bill Monday to create a mental illness psychotherapy drug task force. Among the goals, the task force would study and make recommendations on drugs that may assist in treating mental illness. H.B. 167 pertains to using drugs that are controlled substances and not currently legal. The task force would include a licensed psychiatrist, a psychologist and a patient who is knowledgeable about the use of a psychotherapy drug. — Pamela McCall

New group aims to make K-12 curricula more inclusive

Utah leaders have announced a new working group to research ways to incorporate diversity and inclusion into K-12 curricula. Gov. Spencer Cox and other state leaders announced the creation of the group the night of Martin Luther King Day. The bipartisan commission includes lawmakers, educators and community leaders. The announcement comes in the wake of continuing debates about critical race theory in schools. The Utah House and Senate passed non-binding resolutions in May 2021 urging the state’s school board to prohibit teaching principles related to critical race theory. Many schools faced outrage this year after removing books from their shelves — especially books related to racism and LGBTQ+ issues. — Leah Treidler

Making public transit free

Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, wants to make public transit free. Briscoe introduced H.B. 164 Monday to prohibit large public transit districts from charging a fare. He said the bill would give people greater mobility and help clean the air by pushing more Utahns to take public transit instead of cars. Vehicle emissions are the biggest source of air pollution in Salt Lake City, and a Brigham Young University study showed that air pollution shortens Utahns’ life expectancy by two years. — Leah Treidler

Increasing wildlife crossings in the state

Last year, Utah wildlife and transportation agencies installed fencing and fish structures to help migrating animals. This also cut down on the number of collisions between drivers and wildlife by funneling animals to safe crossing areas. The Division of Wildlife Resources said studies show there’s a 90% reduction in wildlife and car collisions when these types of structures are in place. According to Matt Howard with the Utah Department of Transportation, fish structures are meant to help them move more easily in streams intersected by roads and bridges. Howard said the state is looking to use money from the federal infrastructure bill to continue adding and improving wildlife crossings. Read the full story.Lexi Peery

Region/Nation

Navajo Nation expanding COVID testing and vaccination

Health facilities in the Navajo Nation are increasing their ability to test for COVID-19 and vaccinate people. Navajo President Jonathan Nez said the facilities are also working to give out more home testing kits as cases surge. The tribe reported 129 new cases of COVID Monday and no deaths. The total death toll remains at 1,600. President Nez recommends all tribal members get vaccinated, boosted, wear two masks and limit travel, among other precautions. — Associated Press

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