Politics & Issues | KUER 90.1

Politics & Issues

Photo of legislature.
Austen Diamond for KUER

Legislative leaders announced Monday night they have called the Utah legislature into a special session set to begin Thursday morning. 

Photo of the Utah state capitol building and a branch of cherry blossoms
Roddy Nikpour / KUER

The Utah Legislature plans to call itself into special session late this week to potentially make changes to local stay at home orders, expand vote by mail, make budget adjustments and appropriate federal aid to fight coronavirus. 

Photo of large assembly room with rows of desks with people.
Sonja Hutson / KUER

Chris Wilson owns a car dealership in Logan and has never run for elected office before. Now, he’s looking to unseat the sponsor of a controversial tax reform bill passed during a special session in December. State lawmakers eventually repealed it, but only after a referendum to overturn the law gained enough signatures to get on the ballot. 

Renee Bright / KUER

Accidental cross talk on video calls has become common for many Utahns now working at home. But things can get a whole lot more complicated when politicians and governmental bodies hold public meetings virtually. 

Photo of the Bryce Canyon Inn.
Courtesy of Merrilee Mecham

TROPIC, Utah — Like most residents of Garfield County, Dianna Leslie depends on tourism to survive.

Updated at 7:37 p.m. ET

The government has gone to work disbursing the billions of dollars Washington has committed to sustain the economy after the deep shock it has undergone in the pandemic, the White House promised on Thursday.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jovita Carranza, head of the Small Business Administration, vowed that some of the first systems for loans or payments would be up and running as soon as Friday.

Updated at 7:29 p.m. ET

President Trump says he may consider grounding some or all flights as a coronavirus pandemic mitigation measure but also said on Wednesday he wants to apply the lightest touch possible in managing the disaster.

Photo of gary herbert speaking from behind a podium
Screengrab from video via Facebook Live

Utah plans to issue a Major Disaster Declaration Wednesday due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Photo of Gov. Gary Herbert
File photo / KUER

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed 125 bills into law Monday, including a bill to to spend more than $16 million in state money to expand mental healthcare and one banning the prosecution of minors in certain instances. 

Herbert has now signed 459 of the 510 bills passed in the 2020 legislative session.

Man in a suit and red tie stands at podium with the Utah state seal.
Pool Photo

Gov. Gary Herbert signed 151 bills Saturday, including a $10 million affordable housing bill, a bill essentially decriminalizing polygamy and a controversial bill to ban elective abortions should Roe v. Wade be overturned. 

Screengrab from a video of Erin Mendenhall talking to the camera
Screengrab from video via Twitter

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall issued a stay at home order Friday evening, with exceptions for essential travel like grocery shopping, seeking medical care, and outdoor recreation. 

Photo of a campus map on the Utah State University campus
Brian Albers / KUER

The Utah System of Higher Education Board of Regents voted Thursday to raise tuition at seven of the state’s eight public universities. 

Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET

President Trump has signed a historic $2 trillion economic recovery package into law Friday afternoon, shortly after the House of Representatives approved the bill.

In an Oval Office ceremony Friday, the president thanked Republicans and Democrats "for coming together, setting aside their differences and putting America first" to pass the legislation. Trump was joined by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. No Democrats were present at the signing.

The entrance of the Washington County Administrative Building is framed between two palm trees. A large sign sits out front.
David Fuchs / KUER

ST. GEORGE — When the Millard county commission declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, their county became the 19th in Utah to do so in a little over two weeks. 

Screengrab from a live video showing Gary Herbert holding up a piece of paper
Screengrab from video posted on the Salt Lake Chamber Facebook page

Utah’s economy has been suffering as the state responds to the coronavirus pandemic. An economic plan released by the state Tuesday said as people stay inside to prevent the spread of the virus, there have been severe impacts to small businesses, and hourly workers are seeing significant layoffs.

Photo of Salt Lake City skyline at night
Brian Albers / KUER

The Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday tentatively approved a 0% interest loan program for small businesses affected by the coronavirus. It came on the same day as federal loans from the Small Business Administration became available. 

Man wearing a black t-shirt walking across a residential street carrying a clipboard
Courtesy of Todd Weiler

Videos of a man wearing a “Huntsman 2020” shirt appearing to go door-to-door collecting signatures surfaced Tuesday night, but former Gov. Jon Huntsman’s gubernatorial campaign said it had suspended door-to-door activities. 

Photo of Jeff Burningham writing on a piece of paper.
Sonja Hutson / KUER

SALT LAKE CITY — On the steps of the state Capitol Friday morning, gubernatorial candidate Jeff Burningham announced that his campaign would stop collecting the 28,000 signatures needed to secure a place on November’s ballot.

Photo of the Utah state capitol building at night
Brian Albers / KUER

Utah's legislative session wrapped up Thursday night. Lawmakers passed a $20 billion budget and 510 bills over the past 45 days. 

Support for our series Private Prisons: Locking Down The Facts came from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit news organization that partners with journalists and newsrooms to support in-depth reporting and education around the globe.

When architect Kavan Applegate was designing Ravenhall, he made sure to include things like native plants, a playground, meeting rooms with nooks to display local artifacts — even an outdoor fire pit where people could gather on special occasions. The goal, he says, was to help people “feel positive” and “embrace the opportunity for change.” 

But Ravenhall is not a yoga retreat. It’s a prison — Australia’s largest, in fact. And it’s run by the GEO Group, a private prison company based in the U.S.

Photo of the Utah Capitol building at night
Brian Albers / KUER

The Utah Legislature wrapped up its 2020 legislative session Thursday night — defined by big changes to education funding, debates over abortion bills and polygamy, a global pandemic and a tight general fund that left many bills unfunded. 

Photo of a legislative chamber, with people sitting at rows of wooden desks.
Sonja Hutson / KUER

A bill banning all elective abortions, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, passed the Utah Legislature Thursday after the House of Representatives approved it 51-21.

Support for our series Private Prisons: Locking Down The Facts came from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit news organization that partners with journalists and newsrooms to support in-depth reporting and education around the globe.

Photo of a building with the 'Bail Bonds' painted on the windows
KUER File Photo

A bill aimed at easing Utah’s reliance on its cash bail system passed the state Legislature Wednesday.

Support for our series Private Prison: Locking Down The Facts came from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit news organization that partners with journalists and newsrooms to support in-depth reporting and education around the globe.

Updated at 1:43 p.m. ET

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is planning to stay in the 2020 Democratic presidential race despite another disappointing primary night.

Two weeks ago, Sanders was the unlikely front-runner for the nomination. Now former Vice President Joe Biden has consolidated support so rapidly, and won so many states, that Sanders is facing calls to drop out of the race.

But Sanders announced his intention to press on in a statement on Wednesday.

Photo of Carrillon Tower.
Ken Lund, CC via Flickr, http://bit.ly/21dE3M9

Last week, after some back and forth, Brigham Young University doubled down on a campus policy forbidding any romantic behavior between students of the same gender. And the decision has left some LGBT students wondering if they should transfer schools. 

Photo of Utah Senate floor from above.
Austen Diamond for KUER

Often when someone seeks help for a mental health crisis, they’re taken in an ambulance to an emergency room. Mental health advocates, like Ginger Phillips, said that experience can be traumatic and make the crisis worse. 

Photo of a person holding an e-cigarette and exhaling vapor.
Lindsay Fox / Pixabay

A bill aimed at cracking down on teen vaping in Utah died in a committee hearing Monday. 

Photo of Sen. Jake Anderegg.
Cory Dinter for KUER

More information about what goes on in Utah’s jails and prison could become public information, if the state legislature passes a series of transparency bills.