Wednesday evening, Jan. 29, 2020
Representing Rural Utah
Lawmakers from southern Utah said they’re focused on closing the urban-rural divide this session by bringing more jobs and resources to the rural areas they represent. Those lawmakers are optimistic that after years of being ignored by the state Legislature that they have momentum to make that happen. Priorities include an indigent defense program, more funding for emergency service providers and job creation. — Kate Groetzinger, Blanding
Returns Of Tech Education
The Utah System of Technical Colleges presented its budget to state lawmakers on Wednesday. It requested an increase of more than $15 million to their base budget. It argued that technical education is a smart investment for the state and students, but officials say Utah is facing a shortage of these workers. — Rocio Hernandez
Utah lawmakers have an ambitious agenda to regulate vaping products and youth vaping this year. Current proposals include requiring stores to put vape products in age-restricted areas, and cracking down on retailers who sell nicotine or e-cigarettes to people under 21. Another bill would create a new nicotine tax. According to the Utah Department of Health, the state has seen 134 vaping-related injuries and one death. — Nicole Nixon
American Lung Association Gives Utah Failing Grades
Utah earned mixed grades in the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control report, failing three of the five categories the report covered. It looked at how effective Utah’s policies addressing tobacco use were in 2019. Utah failed in regards to its tax rate for tobacco, its smoking age, and in funding tobacco prevention programs. Currently, the youth tobacco use rate in Utah is 9.7%. The report advises raising taxes on all tobacco products equally, including e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco products. — Grace Osusky
The Utah Department of Health is preparing a response to the outbreak of coronavirus that originated in China. The department activated its incident command structure and is working with doctors, public health partners and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare for the possible spread of the disease. Five cases of the virus have been confirmed in the U.S., though none of them have been in Utah.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is sending medical supplies to the region in China most affected by the outbreak, including respirator masks, protective goggles and coveralls. — Caroline Ballard
The referendum on a controversial tax law passed late last year in a special session is effectively moot. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox clarified in a release that since the law was repealed by the governor Tuesday, there is no longer an existing law to refer to a ballot measure. The referendum gathered more than 145,000 signatures, far surpassing the number required to place it on the November ballot. — Caroline Ballard
Americans And Bad Air
About one-third of Americans live in areas that regularly have unhealthy levels of air pollution. That’s according to a new report from Environment America, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization. The report found that nearly half of the 72 metro areas and rural counties measured in our region experienced more than 90 days of harmful air pollution. In 2018, Salt Lake City had 152 days of unhealthy air. — Noah Glick, Mountain West News Bureau.