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No spending spree for lawmakers
Even though there are more than $1.5 billion in federal COVID relief funds set to pour into Utah, don’t expect Utah lawmakers to spend much of that when they meet in a special session next week.
Legislative leaders have told Republican lawmakers that the goal is to spend as little of those federal funds as possible right now. Even though Utah’s economy is exceptionally well right now, the rising inflation rate is reason to worry.
House and Senate Republicans met for several hours on Thursday evening to discuss some of the proposals expected to be on the special session agenda. Legislative sources said the message that came from leadership was one of extreme caution with spending. There is a fear that pumping millions into the economy at once could overheat the economy even further.
So how much of that money might get spent next week?
“Our recommendation to them is to spend probably less than a third of that money,” said House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville when I spoke with him on Thursday morning.
Any money that does get spent will probably go toward replenishing areas of the state budget where legislators have already allocated funds, which will give them more one-time money next year.
What you need to know for Friday morning
Halleluja! The CDC says people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can go without masks in most places, either indoors or outdoors [CNN].
Gov. Spencer Cox said schools in Utah can ditch masks for the last week of classes [Tribune].
Cox suggested he would be open to using a financial incentive to encourage Utahns to get the COVID vaccine [Tribune].
Sen. Mike Lee warned increased federal spending on COVID relief is fueling rising inflation [Tribune].
Despite the CDC guidance, private companies can still set policies for wearing masks and vaccines [Insider].
The head of the nation’s second-largest teachers union is calling for schools to “fully reopen” this fall [Politico].
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would leave the mandate for wearing masks on the House floor in place until all members and their staff are vaccinated [Axios].
Just 12 people are behind most vaccine misinformation on social media [NPR].
Whoa! Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden says the Pentagon is surveilling Americans without a warrant [Vice].
President Joe Biden asked GOP Senators to re-work their infrastructure counterproposal, including financing the spending package [WSJ].
Does debt matter anymore? Senate Democrats are brushing off demands from Republicans to cut spending when raising the debt ceiling [Politico].
The operators of the Colonial Pipeline paid Eastern European hackers nearly $5 million in ransom to restore operations [Bloomberg].
Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy is challenging New York Rep. Elise Stefanik for the No. 3 leadership spot in the House GOP Caucus. Members will vote later today [Politico].
A government watchdog says Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge violated the Hatch Act when she weighed in on the 2022 U.S. Senate race in Ohio [Politico].
Amazon, McDonald’s, and other companies raise pay and add perks to attract workers to a glut of unfilled hourly positions [WSJ].
Israeli forces stepped up pressure on Hamas with tanks, artillery, and airstrikes [WaPo].
“Utah Politics” podcast
On this week’s episode, I’m joined by former presidential candidate Evan McMullin. He’s part of a group of prominent Republicans who have put forth a call for the GOP to abandon former President Donald Trump.
Plus, Utah Rep. Candace Pierucci, R-Riverton, talks about how we get back to civility in our political discourse and why the GOP needs to reach out to millennial voters.
Friday’s Utah news roundup
Sundance Film Festival will return to Utah, in person and online, in 2022 [Tribune].
Salt Lake City fills vacant council seat with longtime west-side advocate [Tribune].
Romney, Curtis introduce round 2 of a bill to troll Illinois senator over effort to conserve 8 million acres of Utah land [KUER].
Why Mitt Romney says Biden administration refusal to admit border crisis is ‘extremely damning’ [Deseret News].
One in three Utahns is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 [Tribune].
Andy Larsen: Where the CDC went wrong on COVID-19 spread, masks and vaccination benefits [Tribune].
Utah unemployment trending down, but some counties struggling [Fox 13].
How many adults in Utah support state’s mask mandate for students? [Deseret News].
Next year it’s five-days a week of school [Transcript Bulletin].
Salt Lake County parks and rec upgrades some parks during pandemic [KUTV].
Lehi City Council approves ordinance allowing drive-thru medical cannabis pharmacies [Daily Herald].
Ogden City looking to spend excess general fund revenues ahead of new fiscal year [Standard-Examiner].
UTA tweaking its transit development plan in Ogden to align with city vision [Standard-Examiner].
On the opinion pages
Marina Gomberg: When division has momentum, kindness is radical [Tribune].
Jenny Wilson and Erin Mendenhall: American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan would ensure long-term wellbeing of region [Tribune].
Haley Swenson: Utah families — not just new parents — need paid leave [Tribune].
The drought meets cancel culture. Why shaming your neighbors isn’t the answer [Deseret News].