Morning must reads for Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Good Wednesday morning from Salt Lake City. Today is the 242nd day of the year. There are 123 days remaining in 2017.

The clock:

  • 48 days until ballots for the 2017 general election are mailed to voters (10/17/2017)
  • 69 days until the 2017 election (11/7/2017)
  • 145 days until the opening day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (1/22/2018)
  • 190 days until the final day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (3/8/2018)
  • 433 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 1,161 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

Today’s political TL; DR –

  • Tensions between House Speaker Greg Hughes and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski erupt over Operation Rio Grande. At issue: The mayor is waiting to close Rio Grande Street in downtown Salt Lake City until the public has a chance to weigh in, while Hughes says the area needs to be closed now to ensure the success of the operation [Utah Policy, Deseret News, Tribune].
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch‘s office says he is leaning toward making public the transcript of more than 10-hours of testimony by a journalist who helped compile a dossier alleging collusion between President Donald Trump‘s campaign and the Russian government [Utah Policy].
  • A federal judge ruled excluding third-party candidates from the presidential debates does not violate their First Amendment rights [Utah Policy].
  • Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski is raising the ire of the Salt Lake City Council because she won’t give them details of a plan to make the TRAX extension to the new airport more affordable. Biskupski says she is keeping the plan secret at the behest of Utah Transit Authority CEO Jerry Benson, but Benson says he made no such request [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • The group behind a ballot initiative to establish an independent redistricting commission is set to hold seven public hearings on the issue around the state [Tribune].
  • A judge is set to decide whether the state of Utah will be on the hook for paying former Attorney General Mark Shurtleff‘s legal bills from when he was unsuccessfully prosecuted on public corruption charges. Shurtleff racked up more than $1 million in legal costs [Tribune].
  • More than two dozen businesses and air-quality advocates are calling on Gov. Gary Herbert to do more to improve air quality in Utah [Tribune].
  • A state audit finds the Lone Peak Fire Department needs more financial oversight, especially for employee use of department credit cards [Deseret News].
  • State liquor stores will no longer accept checks after September 30 [Deseret News].
  • Citizens groups have dropped their legal challenges to a controversial bus rapid transit project in Utah County [Tribune].

National headlines:

  • Hurricane Harvey is moving out of the Houston area after causing an estimated tens of billions of dollars of damage. The death toll from the storm currently stands at 17 but is expected to rise once the flood waters recede. Recovery from the storm is expected to take years [Reuters]. 
  • One area of Houston reports receiving nearly 52 inches of rain from Hurricane Harvey. If that preliminary number stands up, it will be the heaviest storm-total rainfall from any tropical storm in the U.S. dating back to 1950 [Weather Channel].
  • Rep. Mark Meadows, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, says his group wants to avoid a government shutdown this fall. President Donald Trump has threatened a shutdown if Congress doesn’t fund his proposal to build a wall on the nation’s southern border [ABC News].
  • President Trump’s tax reform pitch kicks off Wednesday in Missouri. The issue could be a difficult one as Congress will wrestle with recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey and Democrats are poised to paint the reform efforts as a giveaway to the richest Americans [Politico].
  • Donald Trump Jr. will testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee behind closed doors. A date for that meeting has not been announced [The Hill].
  • A Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says they may need to have President Donald Trump testify in front of that panel about newly surfaced emails detailing a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow [The Hill].
  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says transgender soldiers will still be allowed to serve in the armed forces while the Pentagon studies President Trump’s ban on transgender troops [Politico].
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi condemned “Antifa” protesters after a series of violent clashes with Donald Trump supporters in Berkeley, California over the weekend [The Hill].
  • Something for your radar. The next front in the fight over the legacy of the Civil War? Education officials are grappling with whether to remove the names of Confederate heroes and figures from public schools [Associated Press].
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is calling for more missile launches into the Pacific Ocean [Associated Press].
  • A professor at the University of Tampa has been fired for tweeting that Hurricane Harvey is “instant karma” for Texas because the state voted Republican [NBC News].

On this day in history:

  • 1862 – Union forces were defeated by the Confederates at the Second Battle of Bull Run in Manassas, Va.
  • 1941 – Nazi forces began a siege of Leningrad during World War II that lasted nearly two and a half years.
  • 1963 – The Moscow-Washington hotline between the leaders of the U.S. and the Soviet Union goes into operation.
  • 1967 – Thurgood Marshall is confirmed as the first African American Justice of the Supreme Court.
  • 1984 – The Space Shuttle Discovery takes off on its maiden voyage.
  • 1989 – A federal jury in New York found “hotel queen” Leona Helmsley guilty of tax evasion but acquitted her of extortion.