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Mitt Romney Supports Count My Vote Initiative

Feb 24, 2014
Photo by Terence Burlij/PBS NewsHour.

Organizers of The Count My Vote Initiative can now add Mitt Romney to their group of supporters. If passed, the proposal would move Utah to a direct primary election system.  But a bill moving through the legislature could keep the current caucus system intact.

Mitt Romney has endorsed the Count My Vote initiative in Utah, but Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT3) said Monday he is opposed to changing the state’s nomination process from a caucus-convention system to direct primaries. In his annual address to the state legislature, Chaffetz told lawmakers he could never have beat incumbent Chris Cannon without the caucus system. He said he didn’t have big name ID, and he didn’t have big money, but he did spend time talking with delegates.

Congressman Rob Bishop

  Utah’s 1st District Congressman is hoping he can claim a key committee chairmanship that would give Utah a significant advantage in Congress.  That was one of the messages Republican Rob Bishop brought to the Utah legislature today. 

Courtesy of Congressman Jim Matheson

Democratic Congressman Jim Matheson addressed members of the Utah House and Senate on Thursday.  For now, it is the lawmaker’s last visit to the Capitol as a member of the state congressional delegation.

Congressman Matheson began his speech in the Utah House describing a political atmosphere in Washington, DC that is so partisan that un ending gridlock is the status quo. He says voters are fed up a congress that can’t get work together.

Brian Grimmett

A bill that would exempt political parties from any outcome of the Count My Vote initiative passed another hurdle Thursday as the Utah Senate gave SB54 preliminary approval.

SB 54’s sponsor, Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, says the bill is the ultimate compromise between the political parties that want to keep the current caucus/convention system and the members of the Count My Vote initiative that want to move toward direct primaries.

File: Google

Officials with Google announced Wednesday that Salt Lake City is on a list of nine cities where the company wants to expand its ultra-high speed network called Fiber.  It would be the same system that residents of Provo are now signing up for. Michael Slinger is the director of business operations for Google.  He says the announcement only marks the beginning of a six to nine month process.

Brian Grimmett / KUER

A house committee gave unanimous approval to a resolution Wednesday that would allow Stericycle to move their medical waste incinerator to Tooele County.

Utah Education Network

  Utah’s governor says the legislature should be cautious about interfering with a citizen initiative on how candidates for public office are nominated.  

Brian Grimmett

Republican Congressman Chris Stewart gave a report on his efforts in Washington D.C. to members of the House and Senate today.

He told members of the Senate that he believes in the true idea of federalism, and advocated for a shift in power from his job in Washington to the Utah Legislature.

“I believe that we have enormous challenges and problems ahead of us, but most of those are best addressed at the state,” he said.

Utah House Passes 'Revenge Porn' Bill

Feb 14, 2014
Brian Grimmett/KUER file photo

Lawmakers in the Utah House passed a bill on Friday, making it a crime for a person to distribute intimate images of others with the intent to harm them. 

Cottonwood Heights Democrat Marie Poulson wants to penalize those who take images that may have been generated from consensual sexual activity, but are then used by one person to shame or emotionally destroy the other person. The practice is called revenge porn. While presenting her bill to Representatives on the House Floor, Poulson read a letter she received from a constituent.

A bill that would force political parties in Utah to change the current caucus and primary system cleared a hurdle in a Senate committee on Friday.  SB 54 would mandate that parties raise the threshold for office nominations to 65 percent of the delegate vote – up from 60 percent.  It would force parties to allow absentee voting at neighborhood caucus meetings and state party conventions.

Bill to Cut Internet Sales Tax Defeated

Feb 12, 2014

  The Utah House of Representatives rejected a plan Wednesday to stop the state from cashing in if Congress allows sales tax for more online transactions.

The Marketplace Fairness Act would allow states to collect sales tax on purchases made online – whether the retailer is physically located in that state or not

If it passes, states like Utah could receive a revenue windfall – well over a hundred million dollars a year.  Republican Representative Jim Nielson wanted to make sure that didn’t happen.

Judy Fahys

Lawmakers have been talking for weeks about how to spend taxpayer dollars. Now they are drawing up priority lists in hopes of snagging some of the state’s $5 billion budget for their favorite projects.

Brian Grimmett

Candidates for state office and the Utah legislature could soon be required to disclose a lot more information when they run for office, and they’ll have former Utah Attorney General John Swallow to thank for it.

Brian Grimmett

Utah Senators reluctantly gave preliminary approval to a bill that would give the NSA data center in Bluffdale an exemption from paying a utility tax.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson’s SB45 limits the ability of the Military Installation Development Authority, or MIDA, to levy an energy tax against the recently constructed NSA data center. He says an agreement to not collect this tax is one of the reasons why they chose to build here and if they don’t pass this bill they won’t be living up to their commitment.

Brian Grimmett

Pit bull owners scored a small victory today when a bill that would prohibit local governments from creating ordinances that ban specific breeds of dogs narrowly passed out of a house committee.

  A report done for the Utah legislature shows the social problems associated with alcohol are decreasing.  But the legislator behind the report says it would be hard to justify changes in Utah’s liquor laws based just on the report’s findings.

Brian Grimmett/KUER file photo

A bill passed the Utah House Thursday that would require cities and towns to use some beer tax revenue on alcohol treatment and prevention programs. 

Forty percent of the money generated from beer and alcohol sales goes to municipalities in Utah and only about four percent of that money is spent on programs that combat underage drinking. Cache County Republican Representative Jack Draxler wants to change that.

Bob Nelson

Governor Gary Herbert says he hopes Utahns will increase their donations to the Pamela Atkinson Homeless Trust Fund when filing their Utah State Tax return. He spoke at an event promoting the fund Thursday at the YWCA Center for Families. He says a 50 percent increase from 2 dollars to 3 is not too much to ask in a state that leads the nation in charity and volunteerism.

Pamela Atkinson talked about a young family she met Wednesday night at the St. Vincent DePaul Soap Kitchen.  She says, despite their struggles, she could clearly see they had already accomplished a lot.

Brian Grimmett

Republican U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch touched on health care, immigration this morning when he addressed the Utah House and Senate Floors at the State Capitol.

Earlier this week, Hatch announced he is co-sponsoring a new Republican-led healthcare bill that he hopes will replace the Affordable Care Act. He says the Patient Choice Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment — or CARE — Act will cost less and have fewer mandates than the current health law.

File: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

The official Internal Revenue Service tax season kicked off Friday. Legislators and low-income advocates from United Way, Voices for Utah Children, and “Earn it…Keep it…Save it” gathered at the state capitol to mark the day. They are urging Utahns to apply for the Earned Income Tax Credit, or E-I-T-C, when they file their returns. IRS spokesman Bill Brunson says the average Utah EITC was $2,300 dollars last year and he says the amount could be as high as $6,200.

Brian Grimmett

Local leaders and Utah lawmakers representing rural areas of the state gathered at the State Capitol today for the legislatures annual Rural Day to discuss their priorities for this year’s legislative session.

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, who is himself a former rural legislator from Fairview, Utah, spent about a half hour talking with the group about the challenges rural areas face and some of the potential solutions.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert says the state is strong, but there are still several challenges that Utah must confront. Herbert was speaking at his 5th annual State of the State Address.

Herbert highlighted investigations into former Attorney General John Swallow as a success, as well as the state’s 4.1 percent underemployment rate –which is among the lowest in the nation. But he was also quick to acknowledge the hardships—a booming population, federal overreach and economic development  

KUER Coverage of the 2014 State of the State Address

Jan 29, 2014
Brian Grimmett/KUER

On Wednesday night, Governor Gary Herbert delivered his 2014 State of the State Address at the Utah Capitol.  The audio of the  speech and our coverage is attached above. Shortly after the address the Utah Democratic Party released a statement reacting to the Governor's speech.  That statement is below:

UTAH DEMOCRATS TO HERBERT: THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

The Utah House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that is intended to assist people who call for emergency help when someone is overdosing on drugs.

Amelia Sorich died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine even though two friends might have saved her life by calling for help. But the friends chose not to because they feared being prosecuted the drugs in their possession. Holladay Democratic Rep. Carol Spackman Moss says there are too many cases just like that. She crafted a bill to grant limited immunity to Good Samaritans who find themselves in a position to help.

    

Supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage gathered for separate rallies Tuesday night at the state Capitol. Both sides said fundamental values are at stake. 

A Republican state lawmaker from Tooele County is proposing legislation that would help fund the state’s defense of its law banning gay marriage. 

Representative Merrill Nelson’s bill would create a box on the state income tax form and allow state residents to give a portion of their tax refunds to the cause.   Nelson says people on both sides of the issue could benefit from his legislation.

USTAR Governing Authority Responds to Scathing Audit

Jan 28, 2014
Brian Grimmett

Members of the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative or USTAR Governing body responded to a scathing audit today during one of the appropriations subcommittee at the Capitol.

Utah House Speaker Challenges Governor Herbert

Jan 27, 2014
Andrea Smardon

The Utah House of Representatives opened this year’s legislative session with some bold remarks from Republican Speaker Rebecca Lockhart, challenging Governor Gary Herbert.

Just like speeches from years’ past, Speaker Lockhart railed against the over-reach of the federal government, and insisted that Utah resist. But this time, she targeted Governor Herbert who has recently said that he favors some limited expansion of Medicaid in the state.

Brian Grimmett

On the first day of the 2014 legislative session, Republican leaders in the Utah Senate say there is little support for changing Utah’s liquor laws this year— specifically those laws dealing with the so-called “Zion Curtain” and a requirement that restaurant patrons announce their intent to eat food before ordering alcoholic beverages.

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