Morning must reads for Friday, September 29, 2017

Good Friday morning from Salt Lake City. Today is the 272nd day of the year. There are 93 days remaining in 2017.

The clock:

  • 18 days until ballots for the 2017 general election are mailed to voters (10/17/2017)
  • 39 days until the 2017 election (11/7/2017)
  • 115 days until the opening day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (1/22/2018)
  • 160 days until the final day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (3/8/2018)
  • 403 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 1,131 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

Today’s political TL; DR –

  • Count My Vote, medical marijuana, health care, Russia and Donald Trump. Bob Bernick and Bryan Schott get you caught up on a tumultuous week in Utah politics [Utah Policy]. Here’s a podcast version if that’s what you prefer [Utah Policy].
  • LaVarr Webb looks at how three of the top contenders for Utah Governor in 2020, Greg Hughes, Spencer Cox, and Ben McAdams are working together on homeless issues [Utah Policy].
  • Bob Bernick says Gail Miller is quickly becoming a new power player in Utah politics [Utah Policy].
  • Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is confirmed by the full Senate as ambassador to Russia [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • Sen. Mike Lee is co-sponsoring legislation to exempt Puerto Rico from a law passed nearly 100 years ago which requires goods shipped between American ports to be carried by ships owned by American companies [Tribune].
  • Utah officials say they will close the state’s CHIP program, which provides health insurance for low-income children if Congress fails to renew funding for the plan [Tribune].
  • Insurance rates on the federal exchanges will jump by 39 percent next year [Deseret News].
  • The Utah Transit Authority cuts salaries for top executives of the agency, but one member of the UTA board says they’re still too high compared with other public entities [Tribune].
  • Former Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff wants the Utah Supreme Court to decide whether the state should pay more than $1 million in legal fees from the failed public corruption charges against him [Deseret News].
  • LDS Church President Thomas Monson will not attend this weekend’s general conference due to declining health. Apostle Robert D. Hales will also miss conference because he’s in the hospital [Daily Herald, Tribune].

National headlines:

  • The GOP tax plan could save President Donald Trump personally $1 billion in taxes [New York Times].
  • Trump’s economic adviser Gary Cohn says the typical American family earns $100,000 and would save $1,000 under the GOP tax plan, which they could use to “renovate their kitchen, they could buy a car.” Turns out, the average family only earns $76,000/year. Cohn also couldn’t guarantee that taxes would not go up for middle-class taxpayers [CNBC].
  • Lobbyists in Washington are scrambling to save tax exemptions that could be on the chopping block under the GOP tax proposal [New York Times].
  • The fate of the Republican tax plan rests with six Senators, including Utah’s Orrin Hatch [Bloomberg].
  • House Majority Whip Steve Scalise returns to Congress for the first time since he was shot at a congressional softball practice in June [ABC News].
  • Russia investigation:
    • Twitter says they shut down hundreds of accounts tied to Russian operatives who bought thousands of political ads on Facebook during the 2016 election [Washington Post].
    • Democratic Sen. Mark Warner says Twitter executives have provided an inadequate response to questions from Congress about how Russian operatives were able to use the social media platform to stir up unrest during the 2016 election [Axios].
    • Researchers at Oxford University say “junk news” flooded Twitter during the 2016 presidential contest [Recode].
    • White House adviser Jared Kushner failed to disclose his use of a private email account for White House business to the Senate Intelligence Committee [CNN].
    • The White House is launching an internal probe into top staffers using private email accounts [Politico].
    • Vice President Mike Pence‘s lawyer met with special counsel Robert Mueller last summer to signal Pence’s willingness to cooperate in the Russia investigation [Politico].
  • Even though he has no major legislative victories in Congress, President Donald Trump‘s administration is already having a profound effect on life in America [Reuters].
  • Drain the swamp? Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who is already under fire for chartering private jets for travel, used military jets to fly to Africa and Europe earlier this year, which cost taxpayers more than $500,000 [Politico].
  • Price says he used the expensive private flights because of President Trump’s “very ambitious agenda” [Politico].
  • Price also says he will reimburse taxpayers for a portion of the cost of chartering those private flights, around $41,000, which is far below the total $400,000 cost for the flights [Washington Post].
  • Drain the Swamp #2? Tom Price wants to reopen the executive dining room at HHS. The room has been closed as a dining room for top officials since the George W. Bush administration [BuzzFeed].
  • Drain the Swamp #3? Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke chartered a $12,000 private plane for a flight from Las Vegas to his home in Montana. That plane is owned by oil-and-gas executives. Zinke also used private flights during a trip to the Caribbean earlier this year [Washington Post].
  • Immigration officials say they arrested nearly 500 people in a four-day operation targeting “sanctuary cities” [The Hill].

On this day in history:

  • 1789 – The United States Department of War establishes a regular army with a strength of several hundred men.
  • 1907 – The cornerstone is laid at Washington National Cathedral.
  • 1936 – The presidential race between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Alf Landon used radio advertising for the first time.
  • 1960 – Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, disrupts a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly with a number of angry outbursts.
  • 2005 – John Roberts was sworn in as chief justice of the Supreme Court, succeeding the late William Rehnquist.