• Bid to raise minimum wage in Utah put on hold amid debate over free market economy
    by Hannah Petersen on February 26, 2021 at 12:14 am

    House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, speaks in the House chamber during the Legislature’s 2021 general session at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Legislators’ free market concerns stalled a bill on Thursday that would have increased the minimum wage for Utah residents. | Kristin Murphy, Deseret News SALT LAKE CITY — Legislators’ free market concerns stalled a bill that would have increased the minimum wage for Utah residents. “I just don’t believe, and I believe the general public doesn’t believe, that anyone working full time should be living in poverty,” said HB284 sponsor Rep. Clare Collard, D-Magna. “Our current minimum wage does not give you tons of a chance to thrive.” HB284 would reflect federal efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Collard’s bill would start higher than what President Joe Biden proposes, with $12 beginning in July and raising to the full $15 by July 2026. Collard said that given the cost of living in Utah, Biden’s $9.50 per hour proposal wasn’t enough. “I have people in my district who are working two and three jobs to keep a roof over their head. I have families who are working and students in high school who are also working full time to help maintain a lifestyle,” Collard said. “I would urge you to consider raising this minimum wage.” She noted there are 19,000 Utahns currently making minimum wage. Collard’s bill met resistance over whether the free market should dictate when employers raise their wages over the current federal guidelines of $7.25 set in 2009. She said business owners have told her they already cannot hire people at the current wage, so they raised their wages to between $11 and $14 per hour. “So the market has dictated that change,” she said. But Jordan Hess, CEO of the St. George Chamber of Commerce, argued it should remain the free market that makes those decisions and a statewide mandated minimum would hurt Utah’s rural areas. “We don’t feel that the government should set those wages. The free market economy that our country has been built on, although imperfect, has raised more people out of poverty than any other economic system in the history of the world,” he said. “And a $15 minimum wage could decimate a lot of our small businesses. … If $15 an hour is great for Salt Lake County, great. Well, that’s not gonna work in Washington County,” Hess said. Heather Andrews, Utah state director for Americans for Prosperity, said there is no “significant evidence” that higher minimum wages mean higher earnings later in life. “It actually eliminates employment opportunities, it depresses job growth, and harms small businesses and harms the consumers who will be forced to bear the brunt of costs imposed on businesses,” Andrews said. House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, disagreed with her assessment. “This is not an economy that’s struggling at all,” King said. “One thing that’s inarguable is that it puts more money in the pockets of working people. And I think that’s what we need to do is we need to address the real-life, everyday demands of individuals who are trying to make ends meet.” The House Business and Labor Committee on Thursday tabled the measure on a 10-3 vote along party lines.

  • Salt Lake NAACP president: The name ‘Dixie’ is racist and must go
    by Jeanetta Williams on February 25, 2021 at 11:35 pm

    NAACP Salt Lake Branch President Jeanetta Williams speaks during the 33rd annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Luncheon at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 16, 2017. As the Utah Senate debates a proposed name change at Dixie State University, Williams writes that the current name “has racist connotations.” | Nicole Boliaux, Deseret NewsThe NAACP and its constituents ask Utah senators to pass HB278, starting a name change process for Dixie State University. As president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch and Tri-State Conference of Idaho, Nevada and Utah, I am writing representing the NAACP statewide and our constituents. Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. For well over 15 years, the NAACP has fought to remove confederate symbols from Dixie State University and to change its name. The opportunity for the state of Utah to support HB278, sponsored by Sen. Michael K. McKell, is now. A number of the legislators and community folks claim that the name Dixie has nothing to do with race, it has nothing to do with the South, and it has nothing to do with slavery. But in histories past it has everything to do with all of these. The name Dixie has racist connotations in conjunction with Dixie State University’s previous traditions and Southern symbolism. Administrators removed the longtime Rebel mascot in 2005 amid controversy surrounding its Confederate ties. At the time, they replaced it with Red Storm, which didn’t resonate with students. With the new mascot, Brooks the Bison (named after Dixie’s first student in 1911, Samuel Brooks), Dixie State University has now changed its mascot and athletics logo again. The university’s teams are now known as the Trailblazers. Dixie State University’s campus statue was of Confederate soldiers, called “The Rebels.” The statue depicted Confederate soldiers and a horse. One of the soldiers carried a Confederate battle flag. For much of the latter half of the 20th century, the school’s mascot was “Rodney Rebel,” a Confederate soldier. The Rebels statue was removed from Dixie State University’s campus in 2012 and placed in storage. Later, the statue was returned to the artist. The 1968, 1969 and 1970, Dixie Junior College yearbooks were all named “The Confederate.” This title tradition carried into the 1990s. Aside from the meaning of “Dixie” and the rebel mascot, Dixie State University’s yearbooks from the 1910s-1990s have pictures with irrefutable ties to the South and racist imagery with students wearing blackface in the 1950s-1970s yearbook, Halloween dances and other events, and the Confederate battle flag on display at sports games and parades. The 1916 yearbook even contains an illustrated caricature of an African American with the caption “I’s sho’ fo’ Dixie.” Dixie State University was nicknamed the Flyers before the name was changed to the Rebels in 1951. For over five decades that stuck, but the Rebel name was changed to the Red Storm due to the Rebels’ controversial reference to the Confederacy back in the Civil War era. Now, in 2021, it is time to change the name Dixie State University to another name with no discriminatory history. With a Confederate soldier statue on the property and photos in archives where students are in blackface and having a slave auction, it is extremely difficult to disassociate Dixie University from the Confederacy. The removals of confederate symbols across the United States have been driven by the belief that the monuments glorify white supremacy and memorialize an unrecognized, treasonous government whose founding principle was the perpetuation of slavery. The presence of these Confederate memorials over a hundred years after the subjugation of the Confederacy was wrong. Now, in 2021, it is time to change the name Dixie State University to another name with no discriminatory history. The NAACP and our constituents are asking Utah senators to pass HB278: the name change process for Dixie State University. We ask that the amendment be stricken out to leave the St. George campus name of “Dixie campus.” Jeanetta Williams is the president of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch and Tri-State Conference of Idaho, Nevada and Utah.

  • Utah Senate poised to pass bill to block ‘party raiding’ ahead of elections
    by Ashley Imlay on February 25, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    Voters cast their ballots at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. The Utah Senate is poised to pass a bill to prevent voters from switching party affiliation in the months before primary elections. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate is poised to pass a bill to prevent voters from switching party affiliation in the months before primary elections after frustration over alleged “party raiding” during last year’s election. HB197 co-sponsor Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, noted that over 79,000 Utahns switched their party affiliation to vote in the 2020 Republican primary. The bill would have originally blocked Utah voters from changing their party affiliation from Jan. 1 of a primary election year all the way up until the primary. But the bill was modified to instead stop changes after March 31. Bramble expressed frustration about former Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis encouraging Democrats to switch affiliation to be able to vote in the primary. “When one party tries to game the system, as we saw, again a former member of this body openly, blatantly suggesting that Democrats needed to switch parties to meddle in the affairs of the Republican Party. That’s the genesis of this bill,” Bramble said on the Senate floor on Thursday. Sen. Derek Kitchen, D-Salt Lake City, questioned why the state needs to get involved in the issue instead of letting parties determine it for themselves. Senate Assistant Minority Whip Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, explained that those who switch parties ahead of an election “want to pick their governor or whoever. And so they pay for the elections, and so shouldn’t they have the ability to switch to determine who would be their governor or … their attorney general?” Bramble reiterated that the bill wouldn’t prohibit switching parties, but would only prevent switching for the months before an election. The Senate supported the bill in an early vote along party lines, meaning it will likely receive final passage. The House passed the bill on Feb. 12.

  • Letters: Don’t charge people more for bettering our air quality
    by Readers’ Forum on February 25, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    Electric cars charge at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News HB209, addressing vehicle registration fee revisions, is a bad idea. Electric vehicles (EV) fees would more than double from $120 to $300 per year. Plug-in EV fees would quadruple from $52 to $260. Vehicle exhaust is the largest contributor to Utah’s air pollution. EVs produce no tailpipe emissions; plug-in hybrids are cleaner than any gas or diesel vehicle. Thus, it makes no sense to charge EV owners a surtax to register their vehicles. Why penalize EV owners when they are helping clean up the air? Electric vehicles do pay their “fair share” for roads: $120 yearly fees to pay for road maintenance. They also pay local taxes on electricity that go to local budgets for services. If there are gaps in the state road maintenance budget, other solutions make more sense. Raising the state gasoline tax would add the funds for maintenance much faster than the electric vehicle fee and has the added benefit of disincentivizing the drivers of polluting vehicles, lessening wear and tear on roads. EVs are lighter and thus cause less road damage than pickup trucks. A fee of $300 a year for an electric vehicle is unfair and disincentivizes people who are helping clean up Utah’s air. Jean M. Lown Logan

  • Marvel boss Kevin Feige finally explains why Evan Peters showed up on ‘WandaVision’
    by Herb Scribner on February 25, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    Evan Peters as Pietro in ‘WandaVision.’ Kevin Feige explained why Peters was on the show. | Photo courtesy Marvel Studios, Disney+Why is Evan Peters in ‘WandaVision’ now? Well, Kevin Feige explained why Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has finally explained the reason why Evan Peters appeared as Pietro instead of bringing back actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson. During a panel for Disney+ at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour, Feige said the decision was made early on, according to The Wrap. “That’s one of the fun things about developing these things or blue-skying it in the rooms. My favorite part of the process is always the very, very beginning when we’re figuring out what something could be and at the very, very end when we’re refining it and putting it out into the world. So there were all sorts of discussions, but I believe we ended up going with what you saw relatively early on in the development process. It’s just another way that certain people were messing around with Wanda.”What happened The fifth “WandaVision” episode ended with Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) opening her door to see her silver-haired brother Pietro, who died in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” But her brother Pietro — who is the superhero Quicksilver — did not look the same as he did in “Age of Ultron.” He had been recast by real-life actor Evan Peters, who replaced Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the role.Why it matter This was a huge deal at the time. Evan Peters played Quicksilver in Fox’s X-Men franchise. But Quicksilver was played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” This was the first time an actor from the X-Men franchise joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Disney purchased 21st Century Fox and its film properties, which included the X-Men series.What do Feige’s comments mean? Basically, we don’t know. Based on Feige’s comments, it’s unclear what this means for Peters’ role. It seems Peters’ Pietro is more of a troll — created by villain Agatha Harkness as we learned last week, as I wrote for the Deseret News. So it’s unclear what will happen next in terms of Pietro’s existence on the show and how long he will last.