The Senate Site GRAMA Working Group: 36 Policy Questions

GRAMA Working Group: 36 Policy Questions

Posted in 2011 on Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 at 3:41 PM 10 Comments

This is the starting point. If the GRAMA Working Group can come to reasonable consensus on the following questions, we can draft a bill that will reflect the answers and bring GRAMA into the 21st Century. Each question has a history. Some questions overlap.

The 36 Policy Questions as discussed in the 3/23 meeting of the GRAMA working group.

1. Is there any reasonable expectation of privacy for an elected official? If yes, what should be private? What should be public?

2. Does it make a difference if an elected official uses a publicly funded or a privately funded device?

3. When are the personal notes of a government official public records?

4. What personal records of an elected official should be protected, and what should be public? Should a government official be required to release personal notes created solely for his or her own use? If so, what constitutes a personal note? Does the form matter (handwritten, diaries, appointment books, computer files)? Does it matter if those notes are or are not related to policy or government duties?

5. Is there a difference between a digital conversation and a digital record? How should channels of communication like text messages, IMs, Email, video chat, Twitter DMs, Facebook Messages and voice mail be considered under the GRAMA statute?

6. How should we categorize the increasing new channels of electronic communication as they arise?

7. Who owns the records? The elected official, the elected body, or the company that provides the electronic forum? I.e. Facebook, Twitter? Who should archive these records?

8. Who should pay the real costs for searching and producing these records?

9. Does a citizen have an expectation of privacy when they contact their elected official?

10. Should records that contain information about a person’s health be protected?

11. Should personal Email addresses be classified as protected records?

12. Should a lobbyist have any expectation of privacy when they contact an elected official?

13. The more complicated the rules for privacy become, the more complex and expensive the legal review in responding to records requests will be. Who should pay these costs?

14. Should the GRAMA statute contain intent language? If so, should the intent language be allowed to trump the actual text of the code?

15. Currently, GRAMA does not address which party has the burden of proof on an appeal to show that the public interest in disclosing a record outweighs the record’s private or protected status. Who should bear this burden of proof?

16. What protections should be afforded to the internal and deliberative processes in the three different branches of government?

17. Is there any situation in which a deliberative process should be protected? Should private creative brainstorming play any role in the policy-making process?

18. Should the governor & legislature be allowed to discuss policy issues with staff in private before they take a public policy position? After a bill is passed or policy is made public, does this protection remain or open up retroactively?

19. Should elected officials’ discussions with their staff be presumed to be protected or presumed to be open? Under what conditions should elected officials’ communications with staff be presumed to be private?

20. Is there a time-frame equation that could be useful in making information public? I.e. records presumed protected for a certain amount of time, then presumed public.

21. Should any person or organization be given a special exemption from fees associated with a GRAMA request?

22. If the request requires the review or search of a large number of records, extensive redacting or other work, legal review, or technical expertise, who should be required to cover the cost of the request?

23. Should we revise the current GRAMA policy of not charging for the first 15 minutes spent to fulfill a request?

24. Should the wise use of taxpayers’ funds be part of the assessment equation when assessing fees? In other words, should governments have the ability to waive fees if it is in the public’s best interest?

25. Should the audit records of the State Auditor and Legislative Auditor General be protected if their disclosure would interfere with an audit, investigation, or internal procedures?

26. Should attorneys representing a taxpayer-funded government entity have the same protections as attorneys representing private entities when creating documents or having communication about reasonably anticipated litigation?

27. Should records relating to fiscal notes on legislation be protected until the legislation has passed or the session has ended?

28. What role does private communication among elected officials, constituents, and interested parties play in formulating good policy? What effect would classifying a record public or private records have on the legislative process?

29. What role should our legislature’s part time status play in the classification of information?

30. Looking forward, how can we automate the legislative process of archiving records and properly making them available?

31. How does the decentralized and geographically dispersed structure of the legislative branch affect record production and storage of records?

32. Is there a defining line or equation we could use to discern between the private life and public life of a elected official? Is there a same or similar line that would also work for a governor, citizen, activist, lobbyist, media representative or a government employee?

33. Is there a role for confidential discussions in the deliberative process in the different branches of the government?

34. Given recent advances in technology we have experienced an exponential increase in the volume of potential records available, and a concurrent increase in demand for those records. Given the reality of limited government resources, how should this workload be managed?

35. What technological advances do you foresee over the next 10 years that will effect how we might archive and access public records?

36. What further policy questions should we consider as we bring GRAMA into the next century?

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10 Comments to “GRAMA Working Group: 36 Policy Questions”

    • Nanci Snow Bockelie says:

      I am quite certain a pollster wrote most of these questions, most are either overbroad or seem to assume the existing law has serious privacy problems, or both. In fact, the existing law has multiple privacy protections. Just in case any of my legislators really care what I think, here are my answers to your questions.

      1. Of course, all people have an expectation of privacy, but ONLY for private matters. Any discussion of matters involving the state or legislative issues necessarily involve public matters, and so legislators must expect that all such discussions will become public.

      2. Yes it matters. If I paid for your device with my taxes, I have a right to expect you to use it only for public business. To do otherwise is a fraud on me and every other tax payer. Why doesn’t the state just buy us all Blackberries?

      3. When they involve a governmental issue. No different than before.

      4. You guys are looking for a fight that doesn’t exist. Purely personal information was never meant to be made public, and the current law protects private information — see sec. 202. if you keep your personal diary separate from your legislative diary, and then we won’t have wasted tens of thousands of tax dollars on these silly arguments.

      5. The same way that litigation rules deal with them — if it is written or preserved, it is fair game.

      6. Just as we have defined the existing channels. See answer to 5 above.

      7. it depends on the records. Again, you are asking questions not implicated by the existing situation.

      8. The current statute covers this adequately — the requester shall pay “a reasonable fee” to cover the “actual cost” of the records search and retrieval .

      9. The current law clearly states what information is protected and what isn’t. The fact that someone contacts a state official about a public matter is not private and should not become private.

      10. Federal law (HIPAA) strictly protects health privacy. This is another red herring, people.

      11. No more or less than street addresses, probably less so, if anything. II can be obnoxious through email, I cannot physically harm a person just by knowing their email address)


      13. See response to # 8. Or maybe our majority leaders who are trying to complicate this more than necessary.

      14. Huh? What intent? What are you afraid of?

      15. The State.

      16. Do you guys even read your own laws? Section 103 and 305 protects most internal deliberative records of all three branches, and much else besides.

      17. See answer to 16; oral communications are not subject to GRAMA – isn’t that how real “brainstorming” is done, face to face and in person?

      18. See answer to 16.

      19. See answer to 16.

      20. There is. 75 years. Read the law.

      21. No, not without serious consideration, and a willingness to deal with difficult issues of which special interest groups or non-profits deserve special treatment. The cost of these requests helps keep them in check.

      22. The person making it – just as the law now requires.

      23. No, the cost of charging for this de minimus time would exceed the amount you could charge in most instances.

      24. No, I can only see bad choices being made here! Who decides what requests are in the public interest? I bet I would disagree with many of our legislators on this question!

      25. Yes, and they are already.

      26. Yes, and they do already.

      27. No. The citizens have a right to know how much proposed legislation will cost, if the legislators have not reveal that. This seems like a situation that would not arise much, however, given the speed with which you can work up there.

      28. If you do not want us, who elected you, to know how you work, what you are willing to negotiate, we should find someone else to represent us that doesn’t mind sharing this information.

      29. None. If they are doing the state’s business, they are subject to GRAMA. If they are NOT doing the state’s business, they ae not. No change to the law is needed to protect this distiction.

      30. That is a good question. I hope you come up with a plan. I am sure the state has some great IT people who can create such a plan.

      31. See answer to 30.

      32. Your first question is a good one, the second question supposes facts not in evidence. When acting as a legislator, you are a public servant and everything you do is properly open to scrutiny (with certain existing privacy protections, of course). Activists and Citizens are NOT public servants. They are not subject to GRAMA and should not be. Any change to subject private citizens to GRAMA would be unconstitutional.

      33. Of course. That does not make for the need for a new law, however.

      34. By charging people the cost as allowed by statute for searches.

      35. How to keep government as open and accessible to the average person as possible.

      Thank you for reading these answers.

      • Jen Seals says:

        Well written, Nanci.

      • Michelle McMullin says:

        This is clear, simple and too the point. State Representatives, elected by and for the people shouldn’t hold those people in such obvious contempt. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you ran for public office because you felt a need to serve your community (as opposed to wanting to influence laws in favor of business entities from which you profit, special interest, or for personal gain in some way– such as 100% funded health coverage for life, despite the fact that you are willing to defund public health clinics that support the poorest among us, and cost a fraction of the cost of treating, for life, former state representatives that could, in most cases, and at the very least, afford to contribute to the cost of their health care benefits.) Why don’t you give the people the same benefit of the doubt and assume that we want access to the records of our public officials because we are informed, conscientious citizens who wish to make sure that our elected officials are acting in our best interest.

  1. […] the GRAMA discussion including a great set of questions for discussion that were presented today on The Senate Site. As I looked through them there were some solid points of consideration. With the significant […]

  2. Kathy Kunkel says:

    As you are working through all the details of GRAMA, remember that a person’s personal identifiers are classified as “protected” and that includes personal cell phone number, home phone number, DL number, ss#, etc. If you are doing business on your personal phone, it becomes a record, but if you are using a personal cell phone for personal business and a government issued phone for business as well, it only creates more hate and discontent in the public eye. If we cannot separate our personal life from our business life then we take the risk of having our personal information being requested through GRAMA, Subpeona, or court order. This working group should have included those of us who respond to GRAMA Requests as part of our jobs.

  3. […] can find the 36 questions on the Utah Senate site and Vox Populi, the Utah House Republicans’ […]

  4. PJ says:

    Will there be a discussion of releasing 911 calls? I find it abhorrent that a salacious media has access to 911 calls. This ugly practice has, can, and will discourage people from calling 911 out of fear of hearing their most panicked moments broadcast for all the world to hear. This is a real life and death situation and, if it hasn’t already, the media will cause death or injury because people become afraid to call 911.

    • Michelle says:

      A public record of 911 calls isn’t salacious, it’s oversight. If calls are recorded and available to the public, then the emergency management people at a 911 call center are accountable to the tax payers for whom they work. I want 911 operators to know that every call they answer is being monitored. his at least helps to prevent horrible tragedies where people in an emergency are not taken seriously by the operator who answers the call. Government agencies are accountable to the people. Media using the calls for sensationalize someone’s tragedy is a separate issue. If you don’t appreciate an outlet’s coverage you are certainly able to let them know, both by voicing your opposition, and by not choosing that outlet as your information source. Suppression of information is not the way to influence media behavior.

  5. […] to all those who made time to participate – in person or via the live stream. Here are the 36 Policy Questions we discussed, and the audio of the full work […]

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