PM News Brief: Weekend Wildfires, Landmark SCOTUS Ruling & Salt Lake City DMV Closure | KUER 90.1

PM News Brief: Weekend Wildfires, Landmark SCOTUS Ruling & Salt Lake City DMV Closure

Jun 15, 2020

Monday evening, June 15, 2020

STATE

26 Weekend Wildfires

The Utah Division of Fire responded to 26 new fires over the weekend, a majority of them human caused. Many of the fires started this weekend were in Northern Utah, with three in Tooele County alone, with the Big Springs Fire spreading to almost 3,000 acres. State fire officials say this is the third driest spring on record — windy, hot conditions have created ideal conditions for sparks to quickly spread. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Sen. Kitchen Celebrates SCOTUS Ruling

LGBTQ Utahns are celebrating Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision giving them protection under a federal law that bars workplace discrimination on the basis of sex. State Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, said the decision could have wide-reaching impacts on several state laws that ban discrimination of the basis of sex. In 2013, Kitchen was part of a lawsuit that overturned the state’s law banning same-sex marriage. — Sonja Hutson

8% COVID Positivity Rate

Nearly 8% of COVID-19 tests in Utah came back positive over the past week. That’s according to new numbers released Monday by the state’s department of health. Although that positivity rate is down from the week before, it’s nearly double the 4.2% rate that Utah had seen throughout April. State epidemiologist Angela Dunn said April’s numbers were a sign cases had plateaued. Health officials reported 295 new cases Monday, marking the 19th day in a row of more than 200 cases. Officials also reported four new deaths. They were all men, three were hospitalized and one was living in a long term care facility. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Three Utahns Sue Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox

Three Utahns are suing Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox for rejecting their applications to gather signatures for two ballot referenda. The three people who sponsored the referenda have not voted in a regular general election in the past three years. The lawsuit argues that denying the referenda applications based on that is unconstitutional. One sponsor turned 18 last year and the other two don’t vote because they view it as a “futile exercise when seeking to make substantive changes.” The lieutenant governor’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit. — Sonja Hutson

NORTHERN UTAH

Air Quality Much Improved Along Wasatch Front

Utah’s Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee met Monday to discuss improvements to the Wasatch Front’s air quality during the coronavirus pandemic. In March, levels of nitrogen oxides were nearly 60% lower along the Wasatch Front compared to the same period in past years. A University of Utah professor tied the decline to less vehicle traffic during the pandemic. The committee voted to support a bill that would classify every state employee position by whether they can work from home, especially on bad air days. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Salt Lake City DMV Office Closes

The Salt Lake City office of the Division of Motor Vehicles has closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. DMV officials say the employee did not have contact with the public but did interact with a colleague. All appointments at the office in South Salt Lake will be canceled and people are encouraged to schedule appointments at other locations. Officials say the office, located at 2880 South 380 West, will be cleaned and sterilized and all employees must be cleared prior to returning to work. — Bob Nelson

Explosive Device Found Under Candidate’s Car

A candidate for the Utah House of Representatives filed a police statement earlier this month saying he and his wife found an explosive device underneath their car. KUTV reported Democrat Robert Burch told police a small explosion went off as they left their garage earlier this month. Police found small, white burn marks outside the home. Burch told the West Valley City Police Department he may have been targeted because of his run for Utah House District 30. There were no immediate suspects. His opponent in the race, incumbent Mike Winder, called the incident “horrible” in a Tweet Saturday. — Associated Press