Situational awareness – March 7, 2018

Good Wednesday morning from Salt Lake City. Welcome to Utah’s must-read daily political news roundup. There are 2 working days remaining in the 2018 Utah Legislature.

Trump still below 50% approval in Utah. Backers of the proposed legislative deal with Our Schools Now are scrambling to find votes. The Justice Department sues California over “sanctuary” laws.

Tick Tock:

  • Tomorrow is the final day of the 2018 Utah Legislature (3/8/2018)
  • 2 days until the filing period for candidates in the 2018 election opens (3/9/2018)
  • 8 days until the filing deadline for the 2018 elections (3/15/2018)
  • 13 days until the statewide caucus meetings for Utah Republicans and Democrats (3/20/2018)
  • 45 days until the Utah GOP State Convention (4/21/2018)
  • 52 days until the Utah Democratic State Convention (4/28/2018)
  • 111 days until the 2018 Primary Election (6/26/2018)
  • 243 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 327 days until the first day of the 2019 Utah Legislature (1/28/2019)
  • 973 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

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Here’s what’s driving the day:

Most Utahns still don’t support President Trump

Our new survey finds only 48% of Utahns say they approve of President Trump’s job performance, which is the highest-ever mark since we’ve been tracking that number. Trump, who only got 45% in Utah in 2016, still has never broken the 50% mark in public support [Utah Policy].

Scrambling for votes

Backers of the school funding deal with Our Schools Now are trying to find the 38 votes they need to pass the measure out of the House. GOP leaders say they won’t bring the bill up for a vote unless they have 38 firm “yes” votes. Meanwhile, Governor Gary Herbert says he’s on board with the OSN deal [Utah Policy].

Herbert and Dabakis – strange bedfellows

Gov. Gary Herbert says he supports Sen. Jim Dabakis’ call to eliminate the state school board in favor of a single superintendent who would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate [Utah Policy].

Utah Transit Authority overhaul

LaVarr Webb argues that the move to makeover the UTA is a good one, but the agency needs adequate funding to accomplish its mission [Utah Policy].

Another vacancy on the Hill

Rep. Justin Fawson is leaving the Utah Legislature this spring. He plans to resign this spring because he’s relocating to North Carolina [Utah Policy].

Other Utah headlines:

  • Gov. Gary Herbert says it may be premature to name a southern Utah highway after President Trump [Deseret News].
  • Utah political leaders are not on board with President Trump’s proposal to hike tariffs on steel and aluminum [Deseret News].
  • Tesla may finally be able to sell cars in Utah after Rep. Kim Coleman’s bill to allow the car manufacturer to own dealerships in Utah won approval in the House on Tuesday [Tribune].
  • The Utah House gave the thumbs up to a bill delaying the implementation of any ballot initiative approved by voters in order to give lawmakers time to change anything in them [Tribune].
  • The Utah Senate approved two bills allowing terminally ill patients access to medical cannabis [Deseret News].
  • News media companies will no longer be allowed to use non-compete contracts for employees making less than $47,500 under a bill passed by the Senate [Deseret News].
  • A bill to overhaul public transportation in Utah won final approval in the House [Deseret NewsTribune].
  • A bill to allow the Utah Board of Education the power to review the application of a new charter school won Senate approval on Tuesday [Tribune]. 
  • The House approves $36 million to fund growth in Utah’s public schools [Deseret News].
  • Salt Lake City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall says the city should start working on a backup plan in case the downtown Road Home shelter is unable to close as planned in June of 2019 [Deseret News].

National headlines

  • An adviser to the United Arab Emirates who has ties to some of President Trump’s aides is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. George Nader testified before a grand jury last week and was asked about the possibility that he funneled money from the UAE to Trump’s political campaign [New York Times].
  • The Justice Department is suing California over so-called “sanctuary” cities, saying recently passed laws obstruct enforcement of federal immigration law [Washington Post].
  • Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn is resigning. The decision comes as Trump plans to impose big tariffs on steel and aluminum. Cohn is the latest top adviser to leave the White House [New York Times].
  • Closed-door testimony from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference somehow was leaked to one of President Trump’s lawyers [Daily Beast].
  • The special counsel’s investigation is focusing on Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, but there’s no indication he’s a target of the probe [Washington Post].
  • Former adult film star Stormy Daniels filed suit against President Trump saying a non-disclosure agreement she made with him about an alleged affair they had was invalid because Trump never signed it [NBC News].
  • White House adviser Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act when she campaigned for Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore [CNN].
  • Democrats voted in big numbers early in the Texas primary elections, but total ballots in the U.S. Senate race show Republicans cast a half-million more votes than Democrats statewide [Texas Tribune].
  • Google is helping the Pentagon build an AI to analyze drone footage. Some Google employees are not happy with the project [Gizmodo].

On this day in history

  • 1876 – Alexander Graham Bell is granted a patent for an invention he calls the “telephone.”
  • 1965 – A group of 600 civil rights marchers is brutally attacked by state and local police in Selma, Alabama in an incident that became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
  • 1985 – “We Are the World,” a song recorded by a series of high-profile music stars was released worldwide with the goal of raising funds for the USA for Africa charity.