Monday, March 7, 2011

TAKE ACTION: Tell Governor Herbert to Keep Government Transparent and Accountable

Keep Government Transparent and Accountable
Governor Herbert Please Veto H.B. 477

Email or Call Governor Herbert's Office Today!

This bill passed through the legislature rapidly last week and has been sent to Governor Herbert. We must ask him to veto this bill and keep Utah government transparent and accountable. Find the contact information for Gov. Herbert >>

Read the ACLU of Utah's letter >>
Read a Salt Lake Tribune article >>
Watch a KSL news story >>

General description of bill:

This bill attempts to erect serious roadblocks to the public’s access to governmental records. Among other provisions, H.B. 477, "Government Records Amendments" would raise costs for the public to access records, create new exceptions to when governmental records have to be released to the public, and exempt a variety of electronic communications from the definition of a “record” under GRAMA, including: (i) voice mails and recordings and transcripts of voicemails; (ii) instant messages, video chat recordings, and text messages, and would generally reduce transparency in government.

Talking Points:

* The bill will would repeal GRAMA’s critical legislative intent section, which for nearly 20 years has provided valuable guidance to government officials, the State Records Committee, and the courts in interpreting and applying GRAMA’s many complex provisions consistent with the Legislature’s expressed intent and declaration of public policy.

* The bill greatly expands the ability of government entities to charge fees and costs for responding to GRAMA requests, and reduces the ability of the news media and public interest requesters to obtain fee waivers. This will seriously inhibit the ability of the public to access documents to which they are entitled.

* The bill broadens several existing GRAMA exceptions and adds others, making a substantial amount of government information that is now public off-limits to the public.

* The bill allows government entities to request an indefinite amount of time in which to respond to certain GRAMA requests, which would have the effect of limiting the public and news media’s access to relevant and timely governmental information.

* This bill would abolish a fundamental principle of GRAMA, which is that access to records should not depend on the physical form of the record, but rather on its content; if the content is related to the public’s business and not otherwise classified as nonpublic, then it should be freely accessible to the public, regardless of whether it is a voice mail, text message or traditional paper record.

* The bill would opt the Legislature out of several key provisions of GRAMA. Allowing the Legislature to opt out of significant portions of GRAMA would violate the very purpose of the law and would raise the prospect of inconsistent rules and public access.

Find the contact information for Gov. Herbert >>

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