Good morning Utah and TGIF!
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This week’s winners and losers in Utah politics
⬆️ Winner: The Utah State School Board. Board members have been battered by the current panic over critical race theory. Republicans in the Legislature have been itching to get involved in the issue. But the board apparently took enough action this year on race in the classroom that legislators say they don’t see a need to do anything right now. But, that respite will be short-lived as there could be several pieces of legislation next year on the topic.
⬇️ Loser: Rep. Chris Stewart. During a contentious interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, Chris Stewart falsely claimed he had voted to strip Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments in February. That claim wasn’t true. The next day, Cuomo and Don Lemon roasted Stewart for not reaching out to correct the record. It was not Stewart’s finest hour.
⬇️ Loser: Utah taxpayers. A year ago, the New Yorker reported big problems with TestUtah, the effort to use technology to improve the approach to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now the Salt Lake Tribune reports the SEC was looking into Co-Diagnostics, which provided tests for the effort. Ultimately, Utah taxpayers spent $15 million on testing through TestUtah, far more than any other provider was paid.
Here’s what you need to know for Friday morning
Gov. Spencer Cox expressed frustration Thursday because so many Utahns are refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which has led to more preventable deaths. Since vaccines were made available to all Utahns 16 and over, nearly all COVID cases in the state were unvaccinated people. [Tribune]
Gov. Cox explained he could not ban fireworks in the state despite the extreme fire danger because it’s outside his governor’s powers. The Legislature could take such action, but there doesn’t seem to be the political will to do so, said Cox. [Tribune]
Some aligned with the #DezNat group, an online effort to defend the doctrines and practices of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are deleting their social media accounts for fear they could be publicly identified. [Tribune]
Utah County has been able to cut chronic homelessness in half over the last three years. [Tribune]
Some Utah landlords require prospective renters to pay for DNA tests for their pets. The tests will help them identify who does not clean up after their dog or cat when they poop outside. [Tribune]
An investment group is looking to technology as a way to help conserve water. [Tribune]
A big day at the Supreme Court. The justices dismissed another challenge to the Affordable Care Act. [Scotusblog]
The court also sided with a faith-based organization, ruling Philadelphia violated the group’s First Amendment rights when the city stopped working with them when they refused to certify same-sex couples as potential foster parents. [Scotusblog]
The two rulings highlighted growing fissures among the Court’s conservative wing. [Politico]
Jobless claims jumped unexpectedly last week after several weeks of lower numbers. [WSJ]
President Joe Biden signed a bill designating Juneteenth as a federal holiday. [NYT]
Schools in the Washington, D.C. area are closed today for the new Juneteenth holiday. The last-minute closure has parents scrambling. [WaPo]
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is pledging to block voting rights legislation when it comes to the Senate floor. [WaPo]
The sizzling U.S. economy is driving inflation globally, causing foreign banks to raise rates in response. [WSJ]
The Biden administration will invest $3 million to develop antiviral treatments for COVID-19. [CNN]
The U.S. Education Department is canceling more than $500 million in student debt for 18,000 former students of ITT Technical Institute, which shut down in 2016. [AP]
13 Republican members of Congress signed a letter demanding President Biden undergo a cognitive fitness test. The group is led by Florida Republican Ronny Jackson, former President Donald Trump’s physician while in the White House. [MyHighPlains.com]
“Utah Politics” podcast
In this week’s episode, we let you listen in to a conversation between Rep. Blake Moore and The Salt Lake Tribune’s Editorial Board.
It’s a fascinating peek behind the curtain as members of the board engage in a freewheeling discussion with Moore that touches on public lands, Hill Air Force Base, and investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
You can listen and subscribe for free.
Friday’s Utah news roundup
U.S. Court of Appeals rules against citizenship for those from American Samoa. [Tribune]
University of Utah, BYU roll out name, image and likeness plans as possible NCAA legislation looms. [Tribune]
Deseret Management Corp. names strategic initiatives director and new Deseret Digital Media president. [DNews]
Cox issues proclamation commemorating June 19 as Juneteenth in Utah. [FOX13]
Equality Utah commends Supreme Court decision that balances religious beliefs with equal protection. [FOX13]
41% of Utah CHIP recipients lost coverage in May due to government reversal. [KSL]
BYU-Hawaii to require COVID vaccinations; BYU strongly encourages. [Daily Herald]
Delta variant cases quadruple in Utah — but it’s because of a new way of counting. [Tribune]
Agriculture department has weak oversight, ‘control issues,’ audit finds. [KSL]
Sunset slip-up keeps City Council hopeful off ballot; city recorder reprimanded. [Standard Examiner]
Former transportation official selected to fill Spanish Fork City Council vacancy. [Daily Herald]
PCMR project talks, still difficult, could be moving toward a conclusion. [Park Record]
Dozens of Utah election officials attend new VOTE Certification program. [ABC4]
Experts say Utah not prepared for large-scale blackouts. [KUTV]
Boil order issued in Mapleton after bacteria found in water source. [FOX13]
St. George issues first power conservation alert. [FOX13]
Can’t keep track of all those new apartments in — or coming to — Salt Lake County? This map will help. [Tribune]
Eviction moratorium ending: Where to turn if you’re short on rent. [KSL]
Ogden City Council considering ordinance to ease nonresidential housing restrictions. [Standard Examiner]
On the Opinion Pages
Robert Gehrke: Ban fireworks during drought and bust the Utahns who light them. [Tribune]
Scott Williams: Utah governors have a 50-year legacy of opposing radioactive waste. [Tribune]
Tribune Editorial board: Just put monuments in Utah back the way they were and get to work. [Tribune]
David R. Irvine: We are no longer the America we believe ourselves to be. [Tribune]
Richard D. Burbidge: It’s your choice what kind of guinea pig you will be. [Tribune]
Steven Collis: Stop asking the Supreme Court to resolve the LGBTQ, religious conflict. [Tribune]
🎂 You say it’s your birthday?!!
Happy birthday to Tiffany Gunnerson, spokesperson for Purposeful Planning Institute, Joel Campbell, associate journalism professor at BYU, and Eric Peterson, founder of the Utah Investigative Journalism Project.
On Saturday Thom Carter,Energy Advisor and Executive Director of the Office of Energy Development celebrates.
On Sunday state Sen. Jerry Stevenson and former state Sen. Steve Urquhart mark another year.
Got a birthday you’d like us to recognize in this space? Send us an email.
— Tribune reporter Connor Sanders contributed to this report.