Holder to avoid mandatory minimum sentences on some drug crimes. Town halls for four of Utah's six members. Some in Congress say NSA oversight tough.
Happy Monday. AG Eric Holder is expected to announce today that the Justice Department would avoid slapping some low-level and non-violent drug offenders with charges that carry a mandatory minimum sentence, a shift that could help reduce prison populations and focus on those drug dealers or pushers who are more problematic for society. Holder's "Smart on Crime" speech will come at a meeting of the American Bar Association in San Francisco. [HuffPost]
Topping the news: The International law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP will lead the investigation into AG John Swallow. The team will be led by Steven Reich, who played a key role in the congressional impeachment of then-President Bill Clinton in 1998-99. [Trib] [DNews] [ABC4]
-> As Utah's delegates settle into the August recess, four of them have scheduled town-hall meetings to hear constituents' concerns and answer questions. Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and Democrat Rep. Jim Matheson have yet to schedule any town halls. [Trib]
-> Several lawmakers responsible for overseeing the NSA's surveillance programs claim that there were many obstacles limiting their ability to challenge the scope and legality of the agency's actions. [WaPost]
Today's news: State liquor officials are adding a new "master license" for chain restaurants that would allow them to cover all their locations with one permit. The idea, that some mom-and-pop stores disagree with, is aimed at freeing up more licenses for other places. [Trib]
-> After SL County DA Sim Gill found two West Valley City officers weren't justified in a shooting, several folks have come forward to try to oust the Democrat. [Trib]
Tweet of the day: From @martycarpenter: "At least Romney paid for his own car elevator. RT @DRUDGE_REPORT: FIRST DOG BO AIRLIFTED TO OBAMA HOLIDAY HOME http://drudge.tw/17HB1Ci"
Happy birthday: to Wampold Strategies' Jenn Burr-Linn.
Congrats: To Emily Bennion, press secretary to Sen. Mike Lee, who got engaged this weekend to Clint Long, a BYU grad. They're planning on a Utah wedding around the holidays.
Opinion Section: George Pyle discusses the U.S. Supreme Court Case involving Greece, N.Y., where some are suing the town board for opening its meeting with a Christian prayer. [Trib]
-> Paul Rolly says awarding the $700,000 anti-smoking campaign contract to R&R Partners, which is known to have lobbied for more lenient smoking policies in Nevada, has brought up tough questions as to what exactly constitutes a conflict of interest. [Trib]
-> Rolly chases down the story of how a Texas politician's picture became that of Mia Love. [Trib]
-> An SLC attorney condemns Utahs "ag-gag" law as the only statute in the state that protects a specific industry from whistleblowers, journalists and investigations. [Trib]
-> Pat Bagley gives his take on the NSA's surveillance programs. [Trib]
-> Former SL Co. Councilman Joe Hatch urges Utahns not to be taken in by the UTA's arguments in favor of high executive salaries, which he believes are a powerful symbol of the authority's mismanagement. [Trib]
-> SL Chamber CEO Lane Beattie defends the UTA's high executive salaries and international trips as necessary investment to reap rewards in the long run. [DNews]
-> A Hewlett Packard data analytics senior manager makes a case for the SKILLS Visa Act currently under consideration by the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation, he says, would greatly benefit Utah, which is coming to be regarded as a technology center. [Trib]
-> The president of the Utah Libertas Institute sides with Sen. Aaron Osmond in arguing for an elimination of compulsory-attendance laws for school children, stating that these laws violate parents' rights to educate their children as they see fit. [Trib]
-> A retired educator lays out the benefits to parents, teachers and children of Osmond's bill to eliminate compulsory education. [Trib]
-> An LGBT activist defends the rights of gay-rights groups to boycott the upcoming movie interpretation of the book Ender's Game, whose author is known to participate actively with anti-gay groups. A boycott shows disagreement with a viewpoint, he says, and cannot be equated with intolerance. [Trib]
-> John Florez argues the public education system needs a reboot, starting with changing the system's culture from internally and process driven to customer driven. [DNews]
Weekend in Review: Seven candidates are running for the WVC mayoral seat, which will be vacated by Mike Winder later this year. Major issues facing the new mayor include restoring faith in the police, attracting businesses to West Valley and improving neighborhoods. [Trib]
-> Our D.C. notebook looks at Jon Huntsman's assessment of the 2012 GOP presidential candidates, Utahns' attitudes toward the NSA and its new Bluffdale data center and HBO's The Newsroom's take on the Romney presidential campaign. [Trib]
-> The University of Utah lost $32 million in research funding for this fiscal year due to sequestration, cuts which could cost up to 640 jobs. Utah State has lost around $25 million, almost 15 percent of its research funding. [Trib]
-> Cuts to the food stamps program will come into effect Nov. 1 unless Congress acts on expiring legislation. Advocates for low-income residents are bracing for the transition and anticipating an increased burden on food pantries. [Trib]
-> A new rule approves last week by the state Office of Education states that school districts must get more third-graders reading at grade level or they could lose out on funding. Education officials argue this move hinders, rather than helps, educators meet the goal of 90 percent of third-graders reading proficiently. [Trib]
-> A new book by Washington Post chief correspondent Dan Balz reveals Mitt Romney as a reluctant 2012 presidential candidate, at one point making up his mind to drop out of the race entirely. [Trib] [DNews]
-> After the upcoming municipal elections, the Salt Lake City Council will look significantly different come next January. [Trib]
-> Spencer Zwick, a Mitt Romney campaign insider, gives an insight into the challenges of Romney's presidential run, the impact of his Mormon faith and what ultimately went wrong for the former Massachusetts governor. [DNews]
-> The fifth annual Clear the Air Challenge set new records, attracting nearly 8,500 participants who eliminated almost 1.9 million miles travelled, saving close to 90,000 gallos of gas. [DNews]
Nationally: President Barack Obama assured audience-members in Orlando at the annual convention of the Disabled American Veterans that his administration is committed to increasing spending on veterans' programs including health care, job assistance and education. [NYTimes]
-> VP Joe Biden will speak at Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak-fry next month, fueling suspicions that he is gearing up for a 2016 presidential run. [NYTimes] [Politico] [ABCNews]
-> Some insiders say that the push for freshmen in the House to raise money distorts priorities and encourages favoritism toward those who make healthy donations. [NYTimes]
-> Animal rights groups, backed by movie star Robert Redford, have unwittingly found themselves on the opposite side of a disagreement with Native American leaders over the management of wild horses. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has voiced his support for horse slaughtering, saying wild horses cost his tribe $200,000 a year in damages. [NYTimes]
-> Although the US. Postal Service is still losing money, those losses are decreasing each quarter, suggesting the agency is moving in the right direction. So far this year the postal service has lost almost $4 billion. [WaPost]
Where are they?
Gov. Gary Herbert calls Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and films some public service announcements.
SL Co. Mayor Ben McAdams holds a staff meeting and attends a Downtown Alliance board meeting, hits a UTA luncheon, meets with Cathy Kahlow from the U.S. Forest Service and joins a Wasatch Summit Executive Committee meeting.
SLC Mayor Ralph Becker joins McAdams at the UTA luncheon, discusses the new performing arts center and attends a Wasatch Summit Executive Committee meeting.
President Barack Obama is on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
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Thomas Burr and Isobel MarkhamTwitter.com/thomaswburr and Twitter.com/i_markham