Situational awareness – February 14, 2018

Good Wednesday morning from Salt Lake City. Happy Valentine’s Day! It’s also Ash Wednesday.

Lawmakers reach the halfway point of the 2018 election. Legislators still have to set the budget next year, but they still don’t know how much money they’ll have to spend. The White House is still reeling from the fallout of abuse allegations against a top aide.

Tick Tock:

  • 22 days until the final day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (3/8/2018)
  • 23 days until the filing period for candidates in the 2018 election opens (3/9/2018)
  • 29 days until the filing deadline for the 2018 elections (3/15/2018)
  • 34 days until the statewide caucus meetings for Utah Republicans and Democrats (3/20/2018)
  • 66 days until the Utah GOP State Convention (4/21/2018)
  • 73 days until the Utah Democratic State Convention (4/28/2018)
  • 132 days until the 2018 Primary Election (6/26/2018)
  • 264 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 348 days until the first day of the 2019 Utah Legislature (1/28/2019)
  • 994 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

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Here’s what’s driving the day:

We’re halfway done with the 2018 session

Well, a little more than halfway right now. Lawmakers have already tackled some big issues, but there’s plenty still on their plate in the final days before they adjourn on March 8 [Utah Policy].

Setting the budget

Lawmakers still don’t know how much extra money they’ll have to spend next year. Sen. Jerry Stevenson plans to fast-track a bill to improve data sharing between the tax commission, governor’s office, and the legislature so they can get a better handle on the budget situation [Utah Policy].

Overhauling Medicaid

Sen. Daniel Hemmert wants the state to ask the feds for a block grant to administer their own Medicaid program. If that fails, he wants to implement work requirements and other changes [Utah Policy].

Slowing the flow of bill requests

One lawmaker reportedly opened a whopping 82 bill files this year. Rep. Dan McCay wants to make known just how many bill requests a lawmaker submits, which should cut down on that behavior [Utah Policy].

Candidate field filling up

Democrat Kurt Weiland jumps into the race in Utah’s 1st District against Republican Rob Bishop [Utah Policy].

Other Utah headlines:

  • Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams renews his promise to pull back his support of a new homeless shelter in South Salt Lake if lawmakers don’t come through with funding for the facility [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • Rep. Mike Noel’s company owned land inside Grand Staircase-Escalante at the same time he was fighting to overturn the monument [Deseret NewsTribune].
  • The House narrowly passed a bill allowing the state to grow medical marijuana. The bill now moves to the Senate [Deseret News].
  • Rep. Gage Froerer is back with his proposal to abolish the death penalty in Utah [Tribune].
  • A House committee approved a bill to direct the Utah Transit Authority to follow spending priorities set by counties when they’re using money raised through a voter-approved sales tax hike [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • Salt Lake City leaders are pushing back against a state proposal to establish control over a new inland port in the city’s northwest quadrant. The city has countered with a plan to share governing responsibility [Deseret News].
  • A House panel refused to debate a resolution that recognized climate change is happening and it is caused by human-related activity [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • A House committee put the kibosh on a proposal to study the gender-based wage gap in Utah [Deseret News, Associated Press].
  • As we first told you in yesterday’s newsletter, Jan Garbett is running for Congress under the United Utah Party banner in Utah’s 2nd District. The third party also announced Eric Eliason will challenge Rep. Rob Bishop in the 1st District [Deseret NewsTribune].

National headlines:

  • What?!! President Donald Trump’s lawyer says he paid a porn star who had claimed she had an affair with Trump $130,000 out of his own pocket to buy her silence during the 2016 campaign [New York Times].
  • The Trump White House is preparing to heap blame on Democrats if the Senate is unable to reach a deal on immigration. Right now, the prospects for any sort of agreement are dim [Politico].
  • Leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies are warning that Russia is planning to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections by using social media to spread disinformation, much like they did in 2016 [Reuters].
  • President Trump reportedly still does not believe that Russia meddled in the 2016 election. Trump confidants say he believes the allegations make it sound like Trump had help winning instead of winning on his own [CNN].
  • It’s day #8 of the Rob Porter scandal:
    • FBI Director Chris Wray contradicted the White House’s version of when they became aware of the abuse allegations against Porter. He testified before Congress the FBI notified the White House multiple times about the allegations against Porter [New York Times].
    • White House chief of staff is reportedly losing the confidence of his staff because of the way he handled the Porter scandal. One White House official called him a “big fat liar” [Washington Post].
    • Porter blamed his ex-wife’s black eye on an accident during an off-the-record chat with reporters who pressed him about the photograph [Politico].
  • Take note: New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman says White House officials are now “prefacing or concluding their sentences in conversations with reporters by making clear they can’t swear by the information they’ve just given” [Twitter].
  • Issue to watch: Economists are warning we may be headed toward an economic downturn in 2019 [Washington Post].
  • A top Democratic consultant has resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct [Huffington Post].
  • EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, who is under fire for spending lavishly on luxury travel and hotels, got a waiver to fly business class on Emirates Airlines, which has some of the most luxurious business class cabins in the world. Government officials are required to use U.S. air carriers for travel funded by the government [CBS News].
  • Prominent Republican women are getting frustrated with the way the Trump White House has handled abuse charges against men. They fear it could hurt the party’s efforts to attract female voters in the 2018 midterms [Associated Press].
  • Another federal judge has blocked the Trump administration’s plan to end the DACA program next month [Reuters].
  • Democrats have flipped another Republican-held legislative seat, this time in Florida. It’s the 36th seat they’ve flipped from red to blue since the 2016 election [Washington Post].
  • Uh oh! Law school graduates may pay “significantly more” on their student loans under President Trump’s budget proposal [Above the Law].

On this day in history:

  • 1778 – The United States flag is formally recognized by a foreign naval vessel for the first time, when French Admiral Toussaint-Guillaume Picquet de la Motte renders a nine gun salute to USS Ranger, commanded by John Paul Jones.
  • 1779 – James Cook is killed by Native Hawaiians on the Island of Hawaii.
  • 1835 – The original Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the LDS Church is formed in Kirtland, Ohio.
  • 1849 – James K. Polk becomes the first serving president to have his photograph taken.
  • 1859 – Oregon is admitted as the 33rd state.
  • 1876 – Alexander Graham Bell applies for a patent for the telephone, as does Elisha Gray.
  • 1899 – Congress approves voting machines for use in federal elections.
  • 1912 – Arizona is admitted as the 48th state.
  • 1920 – The League of Women Voters was formed in Chicago.
  • 2005 – Video sharing site YouTube is launched by a group of college students.