Situational awareness – April 3, 2018

Good Tuesday morning from Salt Lake City.

The Utah GOP pushes ahead with the fight against SB54. Curtis is Utah’s wealthiest member of Congress. A big bombshell in the Russia investigation.

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Tick Tock

  • 13 days until the signature-gathering deadline for statewide ballot initiatives (4/16/2018)
  • 18 days until the Utah GOP State Convention (4/21/2018)
  • 25 days until the Utah Democratic State Convention (4/28/2018)
  • 34 days until the final day a veto override session may begin (5/7/2018)
  • 84 days until the 2018 Primary Election (6/26/2018)
  • 217 days until the 2018 midterm elections (11/6/2018)
  • 300 days until the first day of the 2019 Utah Legislature (1/28/2019)
  • 946 days until the 2020 presidential election (11/3/2020)

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Here are the news stories driving Tuesday

GOP to continue the fight against SB54

The Utah GOP has hired Gene Schaerr, a lawyer who worked with the state during the fight over Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, to assist them in their continuing legal battle over SB54. Our analysis shows Utah taxpayers have spent about $200,000 defending the signature-gathering path to the ballot against various lawsuits [Utah Policy].

Signature deadline for candidates

So far, just a handful of candidates have submitted enough signatures to qualify for the primary ballot, but several have signatures still being verified. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mitt Romney has only submitted 9,000 of the 28,000 signatures he needs to get on the ballot [Utah Policy].

Curtis is Utah’s wealthiest member of Congress

An analysis shows Rep. John Curtis has the highest net worth among all of Utah’s members of Congress at an estimated $5.1 million. He is the 63rd most wealthy member of Congress. On the other side, Rep. Chris Stewart is the “poorest” member of Congress from Utah with a negative net worth [Utah Policy].

Political bracket challenge finals

House Majority Leader Brad Wilson and Attorney General Sean Reyes are facing off in the finals of our 2018 political bracket. Vote now! [Utah Policy].

Other Utah headlines

  • Backers of the ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana have met with leaders of the LDS Church but won’t say what was discussed [Fox 13].
  • The Utah Medica Association says the group pushing the ballot initiative to legalize medical cannabis “misled” voters into signing the petition and are urging Utahns who signed to have their names removed [Tribune].
  • Former FBI Director James Comey will speak in Salt Lake City as part of the Wasatch Speakers Series. Bill Nye, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and investigative journalist Bob Woodward are also part of the lineup [Deseret News].
  • Utah leaders identify a number of “Opportunity Zones” to stimulate economic growth in poorer areas of the state [Deseret News].

National headlines

  • A DOJ memo from August 2017 authorized special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate allegations that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was “colluding with Russian government officials” to influence the 2016 election [CNN].
  • Markets plummeted because of the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China. Stock markets finished the first quarter of 2018 down for the year, the first quarterly decline since 2015 [New York Times].
  • Russian officials are pressing President Trump to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the White House in the near future [New York Times].
  • The Trump Justice Department has notified immigration judges their job performance will be evaluated on how quickly they resolve cases as part of a push to speed up deportations and reduce a backlog of cases [Wall Street Journal].
  • Lots of bad headlines for EPA chief Scott Pruitt:
    • Pruitt wanted to give big aides to two of his top aides, but the White House refused to sign off on the pay bumps. Instead, Pruitt used a little-known provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act to get them the pay hikes [Atlantic].
    • The EPA explored leasing a private jet for Pruitt’s travel but backed off because it would be too expensive [Washington Post].
    • Pruitt was renting a condo linked to a Washington lobbying firm at the same time one of their clients won approval of a pipeline extension plan from the EPA [New York Times].
    • The White House considered firing Pruitt as part of a larger purge of top officials in the coming months, but he may yet hang on because he’s implementing a big part of President Trump’s deregulation agenda [Politico].
  • President Trump’s lawyers are trying to force a legal dispute with adult film actress Stormy Daniels into private arbitration [Politico].
  • President Trump’s approval among women has dipped because of news about his extramarital affairs with an adult film actress and a Playboy model [The Hill].

On this day in history

  • 1860 – The first successful Pony Express run from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, begins.
  • 1865 – Union forces capture Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederate States of America.
  • 1882 – Robert Ford kills Jesse James.
  • 1895 – The trial in the libel case brought by Oscar Wilde begins, eventually resulting in his imprisonment on charges of homosexuality.
  • 1922 – Joseph Stalin becomes the first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
  • 1933 – First flight over Mt. Everest, a British expedition, led by the Marquis of Clydesdale.
  • 1948 – President Harry Truman signs the Marshall Plan, authorizing $5 billion in aid for 16 countries.
  • 1955 – The ACLU announces it will defend Alan Ginsberg’s book Howl against obscenity charges.
  • 1968 – Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.
  • 1996 – Suspected “Unabomber” Theodore Kaczynski is captured at his Montana cabin.
  • 2008 – Texas law enforcement cordons off the FLDS’s YFZ Ranch. Eventually, 533 women and children will be taken into state custody.
  • 2010 – Apple released the first generation iPad.