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PM News Brief: Police misconduct intervention, prison inmate death & public transit ridership up

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Just a little more than two weeks into "Free Fare February," ridership on public transit has seen a solid increase. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022

State

Expanded background checks for firearm purchases dies in committee 

Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, brought back legislation that would require Utahns to undergo expanded background checks for firearms transfers. King has been pushing for more background checks for the past four years. He said this year’s bill was a moderate extension of laws already in place. But it failed to pass out of a House committee Wednesday. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez

Legislature passes bill aimed at reducing police misconduct

If law enforcement officers in Utah see a colleague engaging in misconduct — like excessive force — they’d be required to intervene. They’d also have to report that misconduct and can’t face any retaliation for doing so. The full Legislature passed a bill Wednesday to codify those requirements in state law, but it still needs the governor’s signature. Throughout negotiations, law enforcement leaders and police reform activists supported the bill. Both sides saw it as a way to improve policing and eliminate “bad apples.” — Sonja Hutson 

Utah real estate fraudsters forced to pay up 

A Utah business claimed to show individuals how to profit off of “house flipping.” Now its operators will have to pay more than $111 million as part of a fraud settlement. About $12 million of that will go back to victims of the scam. The Federal Trade Commission and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection brought the lawsuit forward. Those agencies accused the company Zurixx of using high pressure tactics and celebrity partners to convince people to pay thousands of dollars for coaching seminars that did not result in promised income. Zurixx allegedly prevented customers who received refunds from speaking about their experiences. The settlement also permanently bans the defendants from selling real estate or business coaching programs. — Caroline Ballard 

Northern Utah

Free Fare February leading to increased ridership on public transit

Just a little more than two weeks into February, ridership on public transit has seen a solid increase. This month the Utah Transit Authority is offering free fares. The initiative is billed as a way to improve air quality along the Wasatch Front. UTA officials said so far weekday ridership is up 20% systemwide. Frontrunner has seen the largest jump. The numbers have remained high on the weekends as both buses and Trax have seen big jumps in ridership on Saturdays and Sundays. — Ross Terrell

Inmate death at Utah state prison under investigation 

An inmate’s death at the Utah State Prison is under investigation. The Department of Corrections said Kenny Hall was declared dead Wednesday morning. He was found unresponsive in his cell last Friday. Hall had been incarcerated since 2019. No other information was released on his death. The Utah State Bureau of Investigations is looking into the matter. — Ross Terrell 

Region/Nation

River guides on federal lands to receive $15 an hour minimum wage

River guides working on federal lands this coming season will receive a $15 an hour minimum wage with overtime after all. Last year, President Joe Biden used an executive order to raise the minimum wage for workers on federal lands. A group of outfitters sued for exemptions, but a federal judge denied that request in January. The plaintiffs said they plan to appeal. The Biden administration’s rule will bump pay for many workers in the outdoor industry. Listen to the full story.Justin Higginbottom, KZMU

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