Situational awareness – February 2, 2018

Good Friday morning from Salt Lake City.

Happy Groundhog Day! Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, predicting six more weeks of winter. No matter, though because we still have Utah lawmakers sticking around for another five weeks or so. 

Utah lawmakers plot to undermine the medical marijuana ballot initiative. Romney announces he will announce something about the U.S. Senate race on Feb. 15. President Donald Trump moves to release a controversial memo alleging misconduct by the DOJ.

Tick Tock:

  • 34 days until the final day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (3/8/2018)
  • 35 days until the filing period for candidates in the 2018 election opens (3/9/2018)
  • 41 days until the filing deadline for the 2018 elections (3/15/2018)
  • 46 days until the statewide caucus meetings for Utah Republicans and Democrats (3/20/2018)
  • 78 days until the Utah GOP State Convention (4/21/2018)
  • 85 days until the Utah Democratic State Convention (4/28/2018)
  • 144 days until the 2018 Primary Election (6/26/2018)
  • 277 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 360 days until the first day of the 2019 Utah Legislature (1/28/2019)
  • 1,005 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

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Here’s what’s driving the day:

SCOOP! Lawmakers exploring a way to undercut the medical marijuana ballot initiative

Some Utah legislators say the proposed medical marijuana ballot initiative is poorly written and may lead to unintended consequences. They’re considering using the same process they took with “Count My Vote” to head off the initiative even if it passes [Utah Policy].

Mitt Romney announces he will announce

Mitt Romney posted on Twitter that he would make an announcement about the U.S. Senate race on February 15 [Utah Policy].

Week in review

Another bonkers week in Utah politics! Bob Bernick and Bryan Schott run down what happened and why, including their weekly segment, “Holy crap! Trump did what?” [Utah Policy]. Here’s the podcast version if you’d like to listen on the go [Utah Policy].

Adding a “porn class” to Utah’s sex-ed curriculum

Rep. Justin Fawson wants to overhaul Utah’s sex education curriculum. He wants to create a sex-ed review committee at the state level, and add an “anti-porn” section to what students are taught [Utah Policy].

Transgender guidelines for judges

Rep. Todd Weiler is proposing a set of guidelines for judges to consider when hearing a request from transgendered Utahns who want to change their sex on official documents. The guidelines are mainly focused on making sure the person isn’t requesting the change for some fraudulent reason [Utah Policy].

A new lease on life

Three young men who were arrested during “Operation Rio Grande” spoke to Republican lawmakers on Thursday, thanking them for the chance to turn their lives around [Utah Policy].

Other Utah headlines:

  • State leaders updated the progress on a new state prison amid reports of out of control costs. The number of beds the facility will hold has already dropped from 4,000 to 3,600 to get a handle on budget overruns [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • Salt Lake City leaders are not happy with a proposal to create an “inland port authority” to oversee the city’s northwest quadrant [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • A House panel blocked a bill to create a new oversight committee that would be tasked with investigating waste or misconduct [Tribune].
  • State lawmakers are focusing on $138 million in tuition waivers state colleges and universities gave to students last year, suggesting that might be part of the reason they’re hurting for money [Deseret News].
  • A House committee rejected a bill to get rid of the requirement that drivers must have automobile papers in their vehicle [Deseret News].
  • Rep. Steve Eliason is once again proposing an increase in the age where Utahns can buy cigarettes and tobacco to 21 [Tribune].
  • U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber says his top priority is reducing local crime, especially around his home in Magna [Deseret News].

National headlines:

  • President Donald Trump did not need much convincing to release the controversial GOP-authored memo alleging misconduct by the Department of Justice [Washington Post].
  • Trump administration officials who have been briefed on the Nunes memo are reportedly worrying that the document is not the “slam dunk” it’s been hyped up to be [Axios].
  • FBI Director Christopher Wray is reportedly furious that President Trump has decided to release the Nunes memo, which could lead to his resignation [CNN].
  • The attorneys for Rick Gates suddenly withdrew as counsel for the former Trump campaign aide on Thursday, but the reason why is under court seal. Gates was indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller on money laundering and other charges [Politico].
  • CIA Director Mike Pompeo is defending secret meetings he had with Russian intelligence chiefs outside Washington recently [New York Times].
  • House Republicans are eyeing a vote next week to fund the government through March 23. That should give them enough time to negotiate a deal on immigration [The Hill].
  • President Donald Trump is reportedly willing to walk away from negotiations over an immigration deal with Democrats if they reject his conditions for a deal [Wall Street Journal].
  • The White House is asking the Pentagon to come up with more options for a military strike against North Korea [New York Times].
  • Economists estimate that hiring and wage increases accelerated in January, but unemployment will likely remain the same [Reuters]. 

On this day in history:

  • 1536 – Spaniard Pedro de Mendoza founds Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • 1653 – New Amsterdam, later renamed The City of New York, is incorporated.
  • 1848 – The war between the United States and Mexico formally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. It provided for Mexico’s cession of the territory that became the states of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming in exchange for $15 million.
  • 1850 – Brigham Young declares war on Timpanogos in the Battle at Fort Utah.
  • 1887 – In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania the first Groundhog Day is observed.
  • 1913 – Grand Central Terminal is opened in New York City.
  • 1980 – Reports surface that the FBI is targeting allegedly corrupt Congressmen in the Abscam operation.