Situational awareness – January 25, 2018

Good Thursday morning from Salt Lake City. 

Herbert delivers his eighth State of the State address. An anti-abortion bill on Capitol Hill may be unconstitutional. Lawmakers look to cut more than $160 million from the base budget. Trump heads to Davos.

Tick Tock:

  • 42 days until the final day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (3/8/2018)
  • 43 days until the filing period for candidates in the 2018 election opens (3/9/2018)
  • 49 days until the filing deadline for the 2018 elections (3/15/2018)
  • 54 days until the statewide caucus meetings for Utah Republicans and Democrats (3/20/2018)
  • 86 days until the Utah GOP State Convention (4/21/2018)
  • 93 days until the Utah Democratic State Convention (4/28/2018)
  • 152 days until the 2018 Primary Election (6/26/2018)
  • 285 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 368 days until the first day of the 2019 Utah Legislature (1/28/2019)
  • 1,013 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

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Here’s what’s driving the day:

State of the State

Governor Gary Herbert delivered his eighth State of the State speech on Wednesday night. It was a unique (for him) address that spent time looking back and forward to chart a path for Utah’s future [Utah Policy].

Cut, cut, cut

Legislative leaders have told lawmakers that they should take seriously $162 million in base budget cuts identified by fiscal analysts [Utah Policy].

Picking a constitutional fight over abortion

Republicans in the House advance a controversial bill to ban abortions when the sole reason for terminating the pregnancy is the baby would be born with Down syndrome. Legislative lawyers are warning the bill may be declared unconstitutional [Utah Policy].

Romney gets closer to launching his campaign

Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney met with top advisers in Salt Lake City on Tuesday to discuss policy positions he’ll take during his run for U.S. Senate. A close confidant says Romney will likely launch his campaign by the end of the month [Utah Policy]. 

Handsfree cell phone bill battle

Lawmakers are proposing two separate bills to ban the use of handheld cell phones by drivers. One would completely outlaw the use while the other would prohibit them in school zones only [Utah Policy].

Reducing penalties for some drivers

Good news for drivers who get pulled over without proof of insurance. A proposal would eliminate fines and penalties if they can prove they were insured at the time of the traffic stop [Utah Policy].

Other Utah headlines:

  • Lawmakers are worried that costs for the new prison are getting “out of control” as the tab is now approaching $700 million [Deseret News].
  • Gov. Gary Herbert will undergo surgery to have kidney stones removed on Friday. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox will act as governor in his stead [Tribune].
  • The Utah House advanced a bill to reduce the number of days Utahns can shoot off fireworks [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • The Senate moves forward with a proposal detailing how some counties can remove elected officials from office if they become mentally incapacitated [Deseret News].
  • A proposal to allow a toll road in Little Cottonwood Canyon was approved unanimously by a Senate committee, which could lead to more toll roads statewide [Tribune].
  • A Senate panel approved a bill raising the fees for concealed carry permit fees over the objections of the NRA [Deseret News].
  • A proposal to extend family-planning and birth control to low-income women in Utah is gaining some momentum on Capitol Hill. The measure would be mostly funded by the federal government [Tribune].
  • The Riverton City Council gave new Mayor Trent Staggs a 35% salary increase just three weeks after he his inauguration [Tribune].
  • The widespread use of portable classrooms in Utah may be putting students at risk [Tribune].
  • The White House wants a federal court to move lawsuits challenging changes to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments to Utah [Tribune].

National headlines:

  • President Donald Trump said he is “looking forward” to testifying under oath to special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election [Washington Post].
  • The Justice Department is warning Congressional Republicans that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release a memo that uses classified information to cast doubt on the origins of the Russia investigation [New York Times]. 
  • Former national security adviser Michael Flynn was interviewed by the FBI about his communications with Russian officials the day after President Trump was inaugurated. He kept the meeting secret from the Trump administration [NBC News].
  • Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee say testimony from Donald Trump Jr. about the Russia investigation should be made public [Politico].
  • Some in Congress are worried about a so-called “secret society” in the FBI that is working to take down President Trump. However, the genesis of the “secret society” seems to be a benign text message between two FBI agents. Read for yourself [ABC News].
  • President Trump landed in Switzerland early Thursday morning for the Davos Global Economic Forum [CNN].
  • President Trump signaled on Wednesday that he might extend the deadline for DACA past March 5 to give lawmakers more time to come up with a solution [Roll Call]. The president also suggested he is open to a path to citizenship for the “dreamers” [New York Times].
  • Republicans are betting their tax reform package will lead to higher paychecks, but most workers probably won’t notice that they’re getting paid more [Politico].
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch wants to more than double the number of temporary visas for highly-skilled workers from foreign countries [Bloomberg].
  • Terrifying. Cape Town South Africa will run out of water on April 12 of this year [CNN].

On this day in history:

  • 1890 – Journalist Nellie Bly completed a trip around the world that lasted 72 days.
  • 1915 – Alexander Graham Bell inaugurates transcontinental telephone service, speaking from New York to Thomas Watson in San Francisco.
  • 1959 – The first transcontinental flight took place, a non-stop trip from California to New York.
  • 1961 – President John F. Kennedy delivers the first live televised news conference.