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PM News Brief: Candidate reporting requirements, UVU censure & federal clean water law

Photo of a sign that reads UVU: Utah Valley University.
Brian Albers
/
KUER
Professors at Utah Valley University released a letter Monday publicly censuring how the school has handled the COVID pandemic. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Monday evening, Jan. 24, 2022

State

Utah deciding how to spend its share of national opioid settlement money

Utah is set to receive more than $300 million over the next two decades as part of a national opioid settlement. State advocates and lawmakers met Monday to strategize ways to use that money in Utah. David Litvack, with the state’s Department of Human Services, said they’re working with the attorney general's office on drafting a blueprint of priorities for distributing the funds. Adam Cohen, with Odyssey House in Salt Lake City, suggested the money could help his organization expand patient access to services and with staff retention and recruitment. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez 

Bill would let lawmakers skip reporting certain types of data they receive

Utah lawmakers are considering a change to the type of non-monetary contributions political candidates would have to disclose. A bill moving through the Legislature says candidates wouldn’t have to disclose data, like the results of a survey, given to them if they didn’t commission it. But if they did solicit that information, they would have to report it as an in-kind donation to their campaign. The bill’s sponsor said it would facilitate the sharing of helpful information which helps politicians make better policies. Critics argue it could allow candidates to indirectly ask for data and not have to report it. The legislation passed its first committee Monday and now heads to the House floor. — Sonja Hutson

Utah sees nearly 20,000 new COVID cases 

The surge of COVID cases continued over the weekend in Utah. The state’s Department of Health said the total for the last three days was nearly 22,000. There are currently 738 people hospitalized with the disease, and 87% of ICU beds in Utah are full. More than a third of people in the ICU are COVID patients. Officials said 33 more people died from 11 counties around the state. — Caroline Ballard 

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Northern Utah

UVU professors censure school for its COVID response 

Professors at Utah Valley University released a letter Monday publicly censuring how the school has handled the COVID pandemic. In a letter to the state’s Board of Higher Education, instructors called the school’s COVID policies weak and unenforceable. They complained that the rules are tailored toward non-masking and unvaccinated people. They are calling for mandatory masking on the Orem campus to help slow the spread of the virus. Professors also asked to be able to rely more heavily on virtual instruction without fear of retaliation from the school. UVU has had six days this month with more than 110 new cases. On those days, the school averaged about 700 tests a day. — Ross Terrell 

Region/Nation

SCOTUS to take up major case on federal clean water law

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will look at limiting the scope of a landmark federal clean water law which allows the federal government to place limits on development or pollution near protected waters. But there’s long been a fight over which waters are protected. The law’s language is vague and a 2006 Supreme Court decision didn’t help. The 5-4 ruling essentially created two conflicting definitions. Some justices said the law only protects permanent lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. Others argued it also protects wetlands and intermittent rivers and streams. This could have wide implications for the West, where a lot of rivers and creeks run dry in the summer. The Supreme Court will take up the case this fall. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau 

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