'Snowquester' shuts down D.C. Budget cuts hit Swan Day. Forbes writer gets NSA scare.
Happy Wednesday. Well, it wasn't partisan gridlock this time but good 'ol Mother Nature that brought Washington to a standstill. With a few inches of snow expected in the Washington region, the federal government is shutdown today, schools and universities closed and mass transit systems reduced. The "Snowquester," as it's being called, is expected to get worse as the day continues. [WaPost]
Topping the news: The federal sequester cuts are having an impact in Utah: the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge has cancelled its annual Swan Day due to a scaled-back staff. [Trib]
-> Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died yesterday after a long battle with cancer, leaving behind a divided country and an unclear future for its relations with the United States. [NYTimes] [WaPost] [APviaTrib]
Tweet of the day: From @jasoninthehouse: "Washington DC - what a bunch of wimps. Threat of snow tomorrow and everyone is in high panic. #Snowquester"
From @StevenTDennis: "Sen. Lee did NOT get a phone call from the president. In case you were wondering. Which you are probably not. But still."
In other news: Rep. Jim Matheson will be one of 26 lawmakers who will receive extra help in his next election from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which tagged the lone Utah Democratic congressman as vulnerable to losing his seat to a Republican. [WaPost] [Politico]
-> Matheson introduced legislation today to ban straight-ticket voting, which allows voters to choose one party instead of selecting individual candidates. The legislation applies only to federal-level elections. [Trib]
-> Utah's newest member of Congress has a new title: chairman. Rep. Chris Stewart was named top dog on the House Environment Subcommittee, which overseas the EPA and environmental policy. [Trib]
-> City and county officials in Salt Lake City are inching closer to bringing in a Broadway-style theatre to downtown -- but there are still issues to be resolved. [Trib]
-> Bryan Schott suggests that Utah's political parties have to make in-roads with minority voters if they want to succeed in a future Utah. [UtahPolicy]
-> Environmentalists and HollyFrontier, which manages a Utah oil refinery, are facing off about expansion plans for the plant. [Trib]
-> Tooele County laid off 23 workers due to tightening purse strings, with most of the cuts coming from the Parks and Recreation department. [Trib]
Heard on the Hill: "I do have my flak jacket on." - Sen. Aaron Osmond, as he prepared to field questions on his bill SB71 to create a preschool program for at-risk kids.
From the Hill: Here's your daily legislative schedule. [Trib]
-> House lawmakers voted 63-11 to tear down the Zion Curtain, the required 7-foot barrier in Utah restaurants built after 2009 to separate dining areas from drink-pouring stations. The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate. [Trib] [DNews] [Fox13]
-> Despite being declared constitutional by the Supreme Court, Utah lawmakers are attacking ObamaCare again, with several message bills in place to fight the mandate. [Trib]
-> Pat Bagley takes on state lawmakers' penchant for wanting to open fire on everything. [Trib]
-> Girl Scouts took to the Hill to squash Rep. Steve Eliason's attempt to create a tax check-off form to fund only the Boy Scouts. The bill was killed in a Senate committee hearing after opponents said the measure was unequal. [Trib]
-> House lawmakers hesitated to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees on the basis of height or weight, with opponents saying the bill would create a "protected class." [Trib] [DNews] [Fox13]
-> The Senate moved to make cockfighting a felony, despite objections that the penalties were too harsh. Utah is the only Western state where cockfighting is a misdemeanor crime. [Trib] [DNews] [Herald]
-> House Speaker Becky Lockhart was the lone dissenting vote on a road projects bill -- which she described as a "protest vote." [Trib]
-> Political games might be holding up a bill that would change how an inspector general is appointed and housed. [UtahPolicy]
-> Land owners with prairie dogs, spotted owls or other endangered animals on their property will see lower property taxes, thanks to a new bill that was passed unanimously by the Senate and now heads to Gov. Gary Herbert's desk. [Trib]
-> Stripped of its provision that would actually shrink class sizes, a bill that would require school districts to report how they're using government funds passed a House committee. [Trib]
-> In a string of supremacy declarations, lawmakers attempted to secure the state's hold on water and grazing rights. [Trib]
-> Sen. Stuart Adams is sponsoring a bill that could give a major tax break to a proposed 850-room conference hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, despite reservations from lawmakers and even from Gov. Herbert. [Trib] [DNews]
-> A House committee passed a bill that would make it a class A misdemeanor to leak private information about a citizen's concealed weapon status. [Trib]
-> County jails will bear more of the brunt of housing prison inmates, thanks to a resolution passed by lawmakers. [Trib]
-> House lawmakers voted unanimously to expand grazing areas to 1.9 million acres in and surrounding the Grand Escalante National Monument. [Trib]
Nationally: House Republicans introduced their own budget bill that would keep the sequester's $85 million in cuts but protect military spending while taking bigger bites out of federal employees' paychecks. [WaPost] [Politico] [APviaTrib]
-> The Senate Judiciary Committee -- on which both Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee sit
-- is set to vote on a gun trafficking bill later this week. The bill, which would make gun trafficking a federal felony and beef up other restrictions, has received strong bipartisan support. [NYTimes] [Politico]
-> Meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12-3 in favor of John Brennan's nomination for CIA director after the White House agreed to share more information on targeted killing with Congress. [NYTimes] [Politico]
Where are they?