Situational awareness – February 22, 2018

Good Thursday morning from Salt Lake City. There are just 11 working days until the end of the 2018 Utah Legislature.

Utahns don’t think lawmakers should cut taxes. Lawmakers have more than a half billion extra to spend this year. Students shine a light on gun violence.

Do you believe in miracles? 38 years ago today a group of college hockey players defeated the mighty Soviet Union hockey team 4-3 during the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic games. Nearly four decades later to the day, the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team struck gold in Korea after an electrifying shootout win over Canada late last night. Watch the winning goal here –

I was a guest on Ken Rudin’s “Political Junkie” podcast this week to discuss Mitt Romney’s entry into the U.S. Senate race in Utah. Give it a listen –

Tick Tock:

  • 14 days until the final day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (3/8/2018)
  • 15 days until the filing period for candidates in the 2018 election opens (3/9/2018)
  • 21 days until the filing deadline for the 2018 elections (3/15/2018)
  • 26 days until the statewide caucus meetings for Utah Republicans and Democrats (3/20/2018)
  • 58 days until the Utah GOP State Convention (4/21/2018)
  • 65 days until the Utah Democratic State Convention (4/28/2018)
  • 124 days until the 2018 Primary Election (6/26/2018)
  • 256 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 340 days until the first day of the 2019 Utah Legislature (1/28/2019)
  • 986 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

Do you like podcasts? Give us a download! Listen to our interviews with Utah political newsmakers and “Bernick and Schott on politics” while you’re on the go. Hosts Bryan Schott and Bob Bernick have more than 60 years combined experience covering Utah politics, so they bring you knowledge and insight that’s unprecedented. You can subscribe using iTunesGoogle Play, and Stitcher.

I’m always available for you to send story ideas, tips, suggestions or if you’d like to start a curling team. I’ll even let you be the skip! Hit me up at [email protected].

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Here’s what’s driving the day:

Utahns want extra state money spent on education or Medicaid instead of a tax cut

The state will get an $80 million windfall because of the federal tax cut. Lawmakers are looking at a tax cut to even things out for taxpayers, but a new survey shows Utahns want that extra cash spent on other state needs [Utah Policy].


Utah’s budget surplus is an estimated $581 million this year, which is the biggest Utah has seen since the great recession [Utah Policy].

Death penalty debate

Gov. Gary Herbert says he may sign a bill to abolish the death penalty in Utah [Utah Policy].

Non-compete contract legislation moves ahead

A bill to ban non-compete contracts for employees in the news media passes the Utah House, but it may face an uncertain future in the Senate [Utah Policy].

Going it alone with a stricter DUI law

A bill would repeal Utah’s strict .05% DUI law if at least three other states don’t adopt a similar standard by the end of the year [Utah Policy].

Change of plans?

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck says she may not retire from the legislature this year. She’s considering a run for the Utah Senate seat that’s open due to the retirement of Sen. Jim Dabakis [Utah Policy].

Other Utah headlines:

  • Gov. Gary Herbert says the public wants leaders to “do something” to prevent mass shootings like the one at a Florida high school last week [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • Lawmakers pay tribute to Sen. Orrin Hatch’s storied career as he prepares to retire from public life [Deseret News].
  • The Senate approved a bill allowing the sale of CBD, a hemp byproduct, in Utah. Currently, CBD is outlawed by the federal government [Tribune].
  • Two bills to guide the growing of medical cannabis and giving terminally ill patients access to the substance move to the full Senate [Deseret News].
  • Lawmakers in the House defeated a bill to create a new oversight committee with the power to investigate state and local governmental bodies. However, a House committee passed a bill to change how U.S. House and Senate vacancies are filled [Deseret NewsTribune].
  • A House panel advanced a proposal to reduce the amount of time political candidates have to gather signatures [Deseret News].
  • The Utah House passed a bill allowing mothers to breastfeed in public [Deseret News].
  • A national ethics group is calling for an investigation of Rep. Mike Noel for failing to disclose he owned land near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument [Tribune].
  • Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jenny Wilson hits Republican Mitt Romney for his response to the Florida school shooting, calling it “tepid.” She says she favors an assault weapons ban and stronger background checks [Deseret News].

National headlines:

  • A remarkable and riveting televised town hall on gun violence in Florida brought together victim’s families, community members, and politicians. Sen. Marco Rubio faced a crowd of thousands Wednesday night where he defended his stance on guns [CNN].
  • President Donald Trump met with students, parents, and teachers to discuss gun violence for more than an hour on Wednesday. Trump seemed open to arming school teachers as a solution to school shootings [New York Times].
  • Democrats are worried if they push too hard for gun control measures, it could cost them at the ballot box in the midterms [The Hill].
  • Fake news and conspiracy theories about the Florida shooting were boosted by Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter because of their algorithms that highlight trending topics online [Axios].
  • Students in Florida march to the state capitol and demand lawmakers make changes to gun laws. Students across the country walked out of classes on Wednesday in a show of solidarity [Washington Post].
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into allegations that Paul Manafort promised a Chicago banker a job in the Trump White House in exchange for $16 million in loans [NBC News].
  • First Lady Melania Trump’s parents are permanent legal residents of the United States and are close to becoming citizens. Their status is raising questions about whether they benefitted from what President Trump calls “chain migration” [Washington Post].
  • Twitter nuked a bunch of accounts this week for “spammy behavior.” A good number of the purged accounts followed conservatives online, sparking accusations of political bias from the right [Politico].
  • Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek will moderate a gubernatorial debate in Pennsylvania later this year [Washington Times].
  • Temperatures in the Arctic are more than 45 degrees above normal for this time of the year [Washington Post].

On this day in history:

  • 1819 – Spain ceded Florida to the United States.
  • 1856 – The Republican Party opens its first national convention in Pittsburgh.
  • 1862 – Jefferson Davis is inaugurated for a six-year term as the President of the Confederate States of America. 
  • 1872 – The Prohibition Party holds its first national convention in Columbus, Ohio, nominating James Black as its presidential nominee.
  • 1889 – President Grover Cleveland signs a bill admitting North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington as states.
  • 1924 – President Calvin Coolidge becomes the first President to deliver a radio address from the White House.
  • 1974 – Samuel Byck attempts to hijack an aircraft with the intention of crashing it into the White House to assassinate President Richard Nixon, but he is killed by police.
  • 1983 – The notorious Broadway flop Moose Murders opens and closes on the same night at the Eugene O’Neill Theater.