Government secrecy in Utah

I hope you’ve been following what Republicans in Utah’s legislature have been trying to do with GRAMA, the state’s open records law. House Bill 477 was introduced last week and passed by both the House and the Senate in just 48 hours. The new law would gut one of the best open records laws in the nation by allowing legislators to keep more records private and raise fees for accessing what’s still available. After just two days of protest and negative feedback in hearings, legislators passed it and sent it to the governor. Legislators admitted it was kept under wraps, then rushed to a vote because they didn’t want to be pressured by the public or the press over the changes they wanted and they wanted to pass it this year because it’s not an election year.

Journalists and lawyers are dismayed by the legislation, some saying Utah will be less transparent than Mexico.

Legislators claim they are concerned with privacy and the amount of time (and resulting expense) it takes to process mountains of GRAMA requests. However, the Salt Lake Trib revealed this morning in its Political Cornflakes blog that the legislature received only 14 GRAMA requests during last year’s session. Furthermore, Professor Joel Campbell says privacy concerns area already addressed in the current law.

The Salt Lake Tribune offered a rare front-page editorial, addressed directly to the governor

After a rare, front-page editorial in which the Salt Lake Tribune asked the governor whether he was “for secrecy or accountability,” the legislature was convinced to recall the bill for further consideration. What that means is anyone’s guess. As the Salt Lake Tribune puts it, now it’s up to members of the public to weigh in. You can follow the discussion on Twitter by searching for the hashtag #HB477 and there is are Facebook pages for those who want to preserve GRAMA, those organizing rallies, and those who wish to repeal the legislation once it becomes law.



2 responses to “Government secrecy in Utah

  1. Wait, how does our government run? I always assumed that they decided if a bill was good for the people and then passed it. Gov. Herbert has decided that we pass bills and then decide if it is good for the people.
    I feel like this is one of those moments where we have to stop and wonder what in the world is really going on.

  2. In class, someone mentioned a “I hear what you’re saying and the answer is no” attitude of these politicians. That is what causes me to lose the most sleep, I admit. Where did these Politicians with a Capital “P” come from? At the risk of sounding overly-starry-eyed, what about government “for the people, by the people, of the people?”

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