Situational awareness – February 26, 2018

Good Monday morning from Salt Lake City. There are just 9 working days until the end of the 2018 Utah Legislature.

A small group of Utah GOP hardliners sows chaos in the party. Utahns approve of Medicaid work requirements. Congress gets back to work with new pressure to take action on guns.

Tick Tock:

  • 10 days until the final day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (3/8/2018)
  • 11 days until the filing period for candidates in the 2018 election opens (3/9/2018)
  • 17 days until the filing deadline for the 2018 elections (3/15/2018)
  • 22 days until the statewide caucus meetings for Utah Republicans and Democrats (3/20/2018)
  • 54 days until the Utah GOP State Convention (4/21/2018)
  • 61 days until the Utah Democratic State Convention (4/28/2018)
  • 120 days until the 2018 Primary Election (6/26/2018)
  • 252 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 336 days until the first day of the 2019 Utah Legislature (1/28/2019)
  • 982 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

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Here’s what’s driving the day:

GOP Chaos

A small group of hardliners in the Utah GOP passed a rule change on Saturday that would “immediately” strip the party membership of any candidate that takes the signature-gathering route to the ballot. That means Mitt Romney could be kicked out of the Utah GOP if he uses signatures to get on the ballot. The restriction doesn’t apply to Reps. Mia Love and John Curtis, who have already started gathering signatures. And, that same group fired the Utah GOP’s attorney and rejected the entire list of people Chairman Rob Anderson picked to help him plan April’s state convention [Utah Policy].

Utahns support expanding Medicaid with work requirements

Our new poll shows nearly 2/3rds of Utahns say they support a plan to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act that will be coupled with work requirements and caps on what the state will pay [Utah Policy].

Utah House cracking down on journalists

Utah Representatives will consider a rule change that would keep journalists off the House floor 45 minutes before a session, severely limiting the access journalists have to lawmakers [Utah Policy].

Separation of powers battle

The House introduces a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow them to call themselves into special session. Right now, only the governor can do that [Utah Policy].

Chavez-Houck not running

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck says she doesn’t have the “fire in the belly” to run for Sen. Jim Dabakis’s seat after he retires this year [Utah Policy].

Abolishing the death penalty

Our “Political Insiders” mostly support the effort to abolish the death penalty in Utah, but the Republicans on our panel are evenly divided [Utah Policy].

Webb and his AR-15

Publisher LaVarr Webb writes about gun control and admits he owns an AR-15 [Utah Policy].

Other Utah headlines:

  • Gov. Gary Herbert says he supports expanded background checks for gun purchases. He also says he would consider restrictions on high-capacity magazines and raising the age to purchase some semi-automatic rifles [Tribune]. 
  • Legislative leaders are exploring what steps they can take in the waning days of the 2018 Legislature to curb gun violence [Deseret News, Tribune].
  • A bill to overhaul the governance of the UTA also raises the state sales tax to 4.85%, which would raise $80 million annually for mass transit [Deseret News].
  • Lawmakers reject a ban on plastic grocery bags, then turn around and approve a bill barring cities from imposing their own bans on the bags [Tribune].
  • Sen. Todd Weiler’s bill setting guidelines for transgendered Utahns to legally change their gender failed in the Senate [Deseret News].
  • Rep. Keven Stratton is warning of “havoc” if the state doesn’t move to change temporary “surplus water” contracts cities enter into with customers outside their jurisdictions [Deseret News].
  • A House committee approves a bill allowing prosecutors to charge drug dealers with homicide if a customer dies from a drug overdose [Tribune].
  • Police departments across Utah are scrambling to find experienced officers to fill their ranks [Tribune].

National headlines:

  • Students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time since the mass shooting on February 14 [New York Times].
  • Congress gets back to work following a 10-day recess. They’re under pressure to pass new gun laws, but that probably won’t happen [Washington Post].
  • The NRA is facing off with Florida Republicans over gun restrictions in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school [Politico].
  • Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a planned trip tot he White House after a phone call with President Trump got testy when the discussion turned to Trump’s proposed border wall [Washington Post].
  • The House Intelligence Committee released the Democratic memo intended to rebut allegations that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies had political motives for surveilling a former Trump campaign aide [New York Times].
  • The number of “glitches” in the new tax law passed by Republicans in Congress at the end of last year are starting to pile up. However, Democrats don’t seem too keen to help Republicans fix them [Politico].
  • President Donald Trump reportedly has been pushing his personal pilot as the head of the FAA. The agency has a budget in the billions and oversees all civil aviation in the US [Axios].
  • President Trump’s deregulation push has weakened safety rules, while no new safety regulations have been proposed since he took office [Associated Press].
  • Michelle Obama is set to publish a new memoir in November [Washington Post].
  • California Democrats refused to endorse longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein ahead of the upcoming primary election where she is facing a challenge from her political left [The Hill].
  • Russian hackers broke into computers used by South Korean Olympic officials and tried to make it look like the North Koreans were responsible [Washington Post].
  • China is moving to abolish term limits on the presidency, which would allow Xi Jinping to stay in tower indefinitely [New York Times].

On this day in history:

  • 1616 – Galileo Galilei is formally banned by the Roman Catholic Church from teaching or defending the view that the earth orbits the sun.
  • 1815 – Napoleon Bonaparte escapes from Elba.
  • 1919 – President Woodrow Wilson signs an act of Congress establishing the Grand Canyon National Park.
  • 1929 – President Calvin Coolidge signs an executive order establishing the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
  • 1987 – Iran Contra affair: The Tower Commission rebukes President Ronald Reagan for not controlling his national security staff.
  • 1993 – A truck bomb parked below the North Tower of the World Trade Center explodes, killing six and injuring over a thousand.
  • 1995 – The UK’s oldest investment bank, Barings Bank, collapses after a rogue securities broker loses $1.4 billion by speculating on the Singapore International Monetary exchange.