An update on some Utah bills, Navajo Nation voting access, smart kids and an oh-my-gosh story.
SB158 passed its second reading in the Utah Senate by a comfortable margin and is up for a third. This bill, sponsored by Senator Luz Escamilla will allow all Utah children to access health care coverage by expanding Medicaid and CHIP coverage.
HB284, a bill to raise Utah’s minimum wage incrementally, was tabled in committee (yet another way to kill a bill). While there have been multiple attempts to raise minimum wage over the years, no proposals have made it very far in the Republican-dominated legislature.
HB297, Colorado River Amendments – Around 60% of Utahns rely on water from the Colorado River. On Thursday, a Senate committee unanimously approved a bill to create Utah’s Colorado River Authority, which would be tasked with helping the state renegotiate its share of the river. House Speaker Brad Wilson is sponsoring the bill, along with Senate President Stuart Adams. With that kind of power behind it, it’s almost guaranteed to pass.
HB152, the “ballot nickname” bill, died a painful death on the Senate floor, with only 2 Senators voting for the bill and 22 Senators voting against.
SB205, the soft repeal of the bill that created a dual-path to the ballot, was first killed, then resurrected and passed by the Senate on second reading. It needs to pass the third reading before it heads to the House. Senator Dan Thatcher said “I hate this bill.” It would undo major provisions of the SB54 compromise bill and almost certainly trigger a citizen’s referendum that would remove the caucus option completely.
Navajo Nation and voting access – “A landmark voting rights settlement between San Juan County and the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission will likely be extended into 2024. The agreement was formed after the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, seven members of the Navajo Nation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah sued San Juan County in 2016 over its decision to move to an all vote-by-mail election system two years earlier. The plaintiffs argued mail-in voting disenfranchised Native Americans in the county since only a fraction of residents have home postal service and many members of the Navajo Nation require interpretive services for English language ballots. Supporters say the deal will ensure access to Navajo language assistance during elections as well as expanded early voting opportunities for residents of Utah’s only majority-minority county, which overlaps with the Navajo and Ute Mountain Ute nations. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez called the original settlement, which was reached in 2018 and is set to expire next month, a “hard-fought victory that … increased voter participation in the recent elections.” (Salt Lake Tribune)
These kids! – 14-year-old Benjamin Kagan spent hours helping his grandparents find how to get a vaccine appointment in Florida. Then, he went back to Chicago and set up “Chicago Vaccine Angels” to help senior citizens navigate the process. He and his team have helped over 400 people sign up and get vaccinated. His advice to those who are wanting to get vaccinated? Be flexible. (MSNBC)
Yikes! – An Alaska woman was answering the call of nature in an outhouse in the backcountry when she was attacked from below. A bear had either swiped her or bitten her behind. Alaska Department of Fish and Game Wildlife Management Biologist Carl Koch commented “As far as getting swatted on the butt when you’re sitting down in winter, she could be the only person on Earth that this has ever happened to, for all I know.” She may never use an outhouse again. (AP)