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.
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.
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.