The Senate Site #HB477: Why Revise GRAMA?

#HB477: Why Revise GRAMA?

Posted in 2011 on Friday, March 4th, 2011 at 11:18 PM 57 Comments

[Update, 3/7/11] This afternoon the Senate voted to recall HB 477. The House will send it back so Senator Buttars can add an amendment changing the effective date from “immediately” to July 1st. In between now and then we’ll create a working group to negotiate changes that make sense. They will bring their proposals to interim committee hearings in May and June. If all parties negotiate in good faith, we expect to have a solution ready for a potential special session sometime before July 1st.

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With a few very impressive exceptions, media outlets struggle to cover HB 477 objectively.  We don’t blame them, but it means we won’t win the PR war.  However, out of respect for anyone who honestly wants to know why we did what we did, here are some reasons for the bill.

1. GRAMA has been used as a tool for fishing expeditions. Some entities (media outlets and law firms) asked for massive amounts of records over long periods of time in order to troll for information that may or may not be there.  This has diverted staff time and tax dollars to an unreasonable degree.

2. There are too many disputes between the media and the Legislature about the interpretation of certain words, concepts, and provisions in GRAMA.  We wanted to clarify.

3. GRAMA was written into Utah Code twenty years ago –  long before email, instant messaging, text messaging and video chat were in common use.  GRAMA anticipated that written records would be public but private conversations could stay private.  Current GRAMA code defines casual text, video chat and instant message conversations, etc. as “records” rather than “conversations.”

4. One city had a request for the entire parking enforcement data base since 2000 – more than a million lines of data – looking for information on one vehicle.

5. GRAMA requests can be time-consuming. Legislative staffers spent over 400 hours last year fulfilling these requests, sorting through tens of thousands of records. This keeps them from performing other important duties, like drafting bills.   So far this legislative session (not counting today), 10 GRAMA requests have been made, which, when coupled with a near-record number of bill requests, has created a major log jam.

6. As GRAMA requests increase in scope they get more expensive. Who should pay for all the staff hours and printing cost?  Right now, the default assumption is that the taxpayers foot the bill.

7. GRAMA does not protect the privacy of constituents.  People write their legislator and often disclose personal information in confidence, not knowing that GRAMA allows anyone to access that information.

8. Necessary GRAMA changes have been suggested for many years.  Based on experience, some lawmakers lack faith that the media bosses could negotiate in good faith re: GRAMA and arrive at reasonable solutions.

9. West Valley City had to deal with a request for all land-use decisions over the past 30 years; it took 1 full time person 3 months, including multiple reviews by other staff, to fill the request. Costs approached $30,000.

10. The governor’s office filled 30 GRAMA requests last year, releasing 1,900 documents after poring over tens of thousands of them. The staff member tasked with handling records requests spent more than 100 hours doing so, and as with all government agencies, that doesn’t include the participation required from other staff.

11. GRAMA contains broad legislative intent language that has been used by the Utah Supreme Court to circumvent the actual language of the law.  Eliminating this will ensure that government entities, the state, records committee and courts rely on the plain language of the statute. See Deseret News v. Salt Lake County, 3/28/08, Footnote 3.  We shouldn’t have to legislate this but here we are.

12. The town of Alta spent six (6) years fulfilling one request for every public document – 250,000 of them — at a cost of $37,000.

13. GRAMA does not protect notes and other informal documents prepared by or for a legislator’s own use or reference.

14. GRAMA does not protect personal email addresses or other online identifiers a person may want to keep private.

15. The idea of bringing our GRAMA laws up to date is not a new one. When ideas have been brought up in the past, the media bosses took it upon themselves to pick off legislative support one legislator at a time.

16. Most legislators feel that private communications with family, personal friends or business clients should go beyond a theoretical protection. If challenged, the court is predisposed to release the records.

17. This effort is first and foremost about restoring the open records law to its original intent while maintaining the public trust, functionality, and acclaim for transparency that Utah has earned.

18. What the House said.

19. What Representative Dougall said when he introduced HB477 to the House Public Utilities and Technology Committee on March 2.

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20.  The discussion in committee:

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21. The vote:

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22. This isn’t the final word.  No legislation ever is.  We’ll work on this through the interim.


You already know this, but it bears repeating:

The clear history of the Utah Legislature trends toward information flow and transparency and will continue that way.  Currently, Transparent.Utah.Gov provides easy access for the public to view all financial dealings of state government. Financial disclosure statements are available for every legislator.  Each bill, amendment, and substitute is available online, as is each bill request.  Each final statement of legislative policy – memos, legal opinions, fiscal analysis, committee documents, legislative audits, is available in paper form and online.  There is a steerable webcam available live 24/7 so you can see what is going on in the chambers at any given moment. Each committee hearing and every chamber debate is livestreamed and archived online.

Et cetera.

HB 477  is about protecting privacy, updating a 20-year-old bill to accommodate new technologies,  preventing runaway  costs and clarifying some definitions.

The conversation will continue.  As always, we’d appreciate your thoughtful comments.

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57 Comments to “#HB477: Why Revise GRAMA?”

  1. BWJones says:

    1. It is a taxpayers right to know what their lawmakers are doing.
    2. The media and citizens are pretty smart. If there is misunderstanding, then perhaps it is on the legislatures end.
    3. Then why enact HB #477?
    4. That database is not electronic? I suspect it is… Someone smart could use a search function to pull those data. What if it were a law enforcement request to search those records? How would that be different?
    5. Its your job. A government is answerable to the people. It is a governments job to be able to respond to what it is doing and how it is doing it.
    6. Then the taxpayers foot the bill, or Utah needs to be better about housing and retrieving its data.
    7. If a letter from the public impacts public dollars or policy, then it should be publicly available.
    8. And some media outlets lack faith in lawmakers. This is known as a check and balance.
    Not one other state in the nation has enacted a law like this.
    9. Again, costs that are borne by the taxpayer to know what their government is doing and if this time span is unreasonable, then there is room for increases in efficiency.
    10. Again… your job.
    11. Used by the Utah Supreme Court to circumvent the actual language of the law? Correct me if I am wrong, does not the Utah Supreme Court interpret law for the state? Do you mean to imply that the lawmakers are above the law? Or perceive the law as different from what the Court intends?
    12. See response to 9.
    13. This is an oversight that is problematic. Are you saying that a legislator’s own documents prepared in the course of their job as an elected official are inaccessible to the public and *should* be inaccessible?
    14. See response to 7.
    15. There are lots of bad laws that are not new ideas. This does not mean that we should implement them because they are old ideas… For instance, bans against women and minorities voting were old ideas…
    16. Again, if these conversations are within the scope of the lawmakers jobs, then they should be available to the public.
    17. Who said it? “Trust but verify”… ~ R. Reagan.
    18. Interesting that The House quotes Mark Twain… Here are another couple of Twain quotes for you: “The government of my country snubs honest simplicity, but fondles artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public service a year or two.”~ Roughing It and “That’s the difference between governments and individuals. Governments don’t care, individuals do.” ~ A Tramp Abroad
    19-22… Those are not points, but rather recordings of proceedings and simple reiterations of your previous points. If Rep. Dougall calls himself an advocate of government transparency, that position is diametrically opposed by this House Bill.

    This is bad lawmaking that

  2. Tyler Riggs says:

    You’re absolutely right, legislators, you WILL NOT win the PR war.

    You also will not win the legal war.

    Or the war over what is right.

    Your own credibility in this post is indicted on the second line when you throw the media under the bus for not being able to cover HB 477 objectively. And you are able to objectively write to the people of the state of Utah? You have the arrogance to think that everyone else in the state other than the 29 men and women in the Senate and 75 in the House just don’t understand?

    That is arrogance at best and straight up hubris at worst.

    Allow me to go over your arguments, line-by-line.

    1. GRAMA has been used as a tool for “fishing expeditions.” So what? Do you realize that it is the job of media, rather, the job of the PUBLIC, to keep an eye on what lawmakers are doing? To effectively maintain a lack of corruption in government requires what you call fishing expeditions and what I will call occasional spot checks on government action. You say this has diverted staff time and tax dollars, but you do not say how much and you discount that taxpayers may be wiling to foot this cost for truly transparent government. Most disgustingly, you once again display the highest arrogance by assuming that you are above the need to have watchdogs over you.

    2. That’s too bad for you, now, isn’t it? Good thing those who implemented GRAMA law before you implemented a legal process, including a State Records Committee (who was glaringly absent from the process of creating your new law, it seems) to handle disputes. Sometimes the media was right, sometimes the Legislature was right. The most important thing is there was a process in place.

    3. Do a Google search for “Government e-mails reveal.” You call text messages, e-mails and video chats “casual” conversations, when in reality, they are vital tools that are used to make decisions in today’s electronic world. You are willing to jettison Utah back 20 years as far as transparency is concerned by creating an environment where all conversations can take place electronically and be free from public scrutiny. The public is worse off with this legislation.

    4. A city had a request for an entire parking enforcement database since 2000? Why not follow the code in 63G-2-203 Fees and charge the city? Put the burden on that city’s officials to decide if their taxpayers want to pay the fee there. You do realize that the code already allows you to charge fees to cover the actual cost incurred in providing the documents, right? Besides, why isn’t a database like this online? Why isn’t most of your data that is defined as public accessible online? The cost would be minimal and the transparency would be higher.

    5. 400 Hours? Really? Assuming a 50-week work year that’s an average of eight hours a week. That establishes the value that you all have for transparency. Eight hours a week is too much of a cost for you all to provide greater transparency to the people who put you in office. We will all, collectively, remember this at election time and every time you place high value on your own pet projects. Then I just have to laugh when you lump the 10 GRAMA requests received this session (prior to today) with creating a logjam for the 490-plus bills that had to be drafted for this session.

    The problem creating the logjam isn’t the GRAMA requests, lawmakers, it’s the way-too-many bills you are all drafting. Don’t you dare tell me that creating a state gun carries a higher priority than protecting government transparency. Maybe there’d be more time for lawmakers to review GRAMA requests if ridiculous bills like ones to eliminate tenure in higher education weren’t brought in. Maybe if we didn’t spend half the session talking about feral cats there would be more time to protect open government here. Perhaps if the Legislature focused more on transparency and less on dress up days and making inside jokes we would have more time. Worst case scenario? Hire more attorneys (there are plenty looking for work) during the session to cure the logjam. Transparency is too important for you to make these excuses.

    6. Again, tell us how much they are costing. Don’t just throw out the easy “it’s too expensive” argument. Give us numbers and let the taxpayers decide if the price is too much.

    7. Wah. People need to understand that when they are e-mailing their public officials that they are becoming part of the public record. This is another tired excuse that doesn’t hold water with the people of the state. I don’t hear anyone saying right now that they love HB 477 because now their e-mails between them and legislators will be private. Well, that is anyone other than the lobbyists and special interests who will now gain an even greater stranglehold on you all.

    8. “Based on experience some lawmakers lack faith the media outlets could negotiate in good faith and arrive at reasonable solutions.” Ha. The media, who you paint as the enemy, is working on behalf of the public to get information. What lawmakers want is completely irrelevant here, but you all are holding it as the supreme authority. The presumption should be that what the media wants, the media gets, unless there is a compelling reason to not give it as prescribed by law. This is yet another example of lawmakers believing they are above common logic and by virtue of being elected, know better than the public they allegedly serve.

    9. Who made that request to West Valley City? Why did it take so long? Was this a situation where the requestor could food the cost? Was there a public good served by this? You throw out anecdotes but don’t give details. That’s weak.

    10. And your point is?

    11. Here’s a novel idea: The Utah Supreme Court knows the law better than the Legislature does. It’s called a check and balance, it’s time you respect that.

    12. Like the West Valley City anecdote, who requested this? Was it the media? Did it serve the public good? If not, why did the requestor not foot the actual cost of gathering the data as prescribed by law? Why are you throwing the baby out with the bathwater because of anecdotal stories like this?

    13. And your point is?

    14. Too bad. Personal e-mail addresses of whom? People like Senator Lyle Hillyard, who unwisely mixes his law firm e-mail address with his Senate address for handling government business (I wrote to the good man at both addresses on this issue Thursday and received a response from his law firm address). Perhaps it’s time to educate the lawmakers that they are to use their, or UtahSenate e-mail addresses for handling business related to the public, and use their personal e-mail addresses for…personal things. Then, make it a misdemeanor offense to surreptitiously handle public business through their personal or work e-mail. Discussions that happen over e-mail related to legislation provide context, breadth of understanding, and key details for those seeking to understand and report more about an issue. These are openly public documents in every state and at the national government level, so it’s pretty startling that Utah sees the need to change this and become the pioneer in destruction of transparency in this area.

    15. “When ideas have been brought up in the past, the media bosses took it upon themselves to pick off legislative support one legislator at a time.” Media bosses? Nice innuendo here once again painting the media as the enemy. The public (which includes the media) SHOULD have time to educate their lawmakers on the breadth of the issues and hear from all sides. While you were all so busy fast-tracking this bill through in the span of four days, you must have missed that a lot more than the media do not like this bill and think it’s an affront to open government and transparency.

    16. This is already covered in GRAMA law if you would read it. What most legislators feel is irrelevant. And perhaps most legislators need to tell their business clients, family and personal friends to not contact them on their legislative e-mails when it concerns non-legislative business.

    17. OK. Your effort failed. What you’re doing is destroying one of the best laws in the country and making Utah look like a joke. You think you’ll continue to get lauded as great government officials when you pass stupid legislation like this? You think Utah will be recognized as a hallmark for solid conservative principles when it is embroiled in a lawsuit over the legality of this legislation? Have fun with that.

    18. Pablum.

    To your final comments. Yes, Utah has done things to be transparent through blogging, tweeting, live streaming, etc. That’s all great, but it is superficial and propaganda if that is all that is done. All of that is icing on the cake, but it’s the message you want people to hear. What the public needs and government needs to remain free of corruption is the information you don’t want us to hear. The sheer fact that you think e-mails and other electronic communiques need to be kept private is the exact reason there is a public good to have them open: Information is there that keeps a critical check on government actions.

    The efficacy of our government will be shattered if this bill is signed in to law. It is shameful that so many lawmakers supported it, and I pray, for the sake of our state, that voters remember this come election time. Obviously, people like Senator Waddoups, who noted that this wouldn’t be something you could do in an election year, feel the same way.

    Shame on all of you. You slapped Utah in the face this week and you’re proud about it. This is the highest form of arrogance I’ve ever seen on a state level and parallels the arrogance demonstrated by national Democrats with Obamacare.

    Shame on you.

    Tyler Riggs

    • You go Tyler!!! It’s wonderful to see someone who actually cares about the constitution and the freedom of information act. As if this bill is not a big enough slap in the face to anyone seeking knowledge and information, it will also cost you and me a great deal of money once the courts rule on the media’s side.
      Thanks for the sanity
      k. beauchine

    • Tom Parker says:

      Thank you Tyler…

  3. Rochelle says:

    If a legislator, or any other government employee these changes would affect (which means anyone who receive a state paycheck) wants to send private email, they are free to do so on their private accounts. They can’t claim privacy on an account given them by the taxpayers of this state, for the performance of their job.

    It would seem that nobody has taken the time to consider (hopefully) unintended consequences of federally granted right to records which are overseen by the state under the Tenth Amendment

  4. Dale Cressman says:

    Why, then, the last-minute skullduggery and unwillingness to have full hearings? These records belong to the public. They are our records–not the legislature’s. You may well have jumped the shark on this one.

  5. Brenda Whitney says:

    I wanted to grasp more information on this legislation. The blog and responses have fulfilled that purpose.Thank you to those with the above comments for their ideas and clarification. The general public rarely knows what resources they have available to them and the media needs to access information to let people know things that go on they may not otherwise be inclined to discover, but the public should still have the right to gather records if they are so interested. I know of some cities and situations that have specifically withheld information from the media because they knew it would not reflect favorably on them. We need to do all we can to give laws teeth to keep this from happening, not to help along unethical behavior and spending. Exposing truth should be our goal, in spite of the cost or inconvenience involved.

  6. Jan Gates says:

    So you knew that this would be a PR nightmare, so rather than take it at the front end, you are thinking this will suffice. It would have been nice if you’d posted this first, so that the well thought out comments above were part of your resources. After all, “It’s easier to get forgiveness, than permission.”

  7. Matthew says:

    What is a fishing expedition? I thought the purpose of the law was to make the records accessible to the public for our own perusal. No part of the law says we have to justify the request. Maybe I like to collect credit card records from public officials because I hate credit cards and their use.
    NO. 7 is a flat out falsehood. GRAMA as previously written allows exemptions for private information about individuals. It also says that government agencies can charge the costs to make the record. If I’m willing to pay for what it costs to produce the information you should produce it.
    This law was ramrodded through. Of course you’ll lose a PR war. When you do things like this your constituents stop liking you and you lose their trust and their votes. This abuse of the public trust deserves public anger.

  8. Kevin Fife says:

    Right on Tyler. Time to flood the Govenor’s office with a request for a veto. I have written my Representative and Senator expressing my displeasure and have also written the Govenor requesting a veto. In their mind, the primary job of these folks is to be reelected. Let them know that they won’t be if you have any say in it.

  9. LADD says:


  10. So far, legislators, primarily Dougall and Hillyard have provided only anecdotal “evidence” of the cost. And even if cost really is an issue, this is perhaps the least creative “fix” to that, and one that happens to not just “lose the PR” battle, but paints the legislature as making a judgment call on “worth” not so much as “cost.”

    Outside of cost, Hillyard spent a lot of time in the media briefing and on the floor pointing out that clients sometimes email him at his legislative address. I understand that concern, and I even sympathize to an extent that our legislators who have jobs outside of their legislative duties. But what was so disappointing for me, listening to Hillyard, was his complete lack of personal responsibility. Senator, you are an elected official, charged with representing the people of Cache Valley, not just your law office clients. If your clients are emailing you at your Senate address, you (and only you) need to take responsibility for correcting that. It’s not — in any way shape or form — the responsibility of your constituents, who expect an open and transparent governing process.

    Finally, I love the outreach from our legislature online. Especially that of the Senate body. But in effect, the way this has been handled, and the decisions leadership have made in how to begin a dialog (which is implied by their “we’ll get back to this later” message to Utah’s media) undermines that very outreach. Those of us who know legislators personally or interact to a greater degree during the legislative session may be able to see past this and watch for a continuing dialog, but for the general public busy with their daily lives, HB477 and the process by which it became law this week furthers the notion that their lawmakers are only telling them half of the story.

    The point of “sunshine” or “open government” initiatives are not only good government, but a more engaged and less cynical public. With this process, and this bill, the Utah Legislature has done more to feed that cynicism than fight it. I am disappointed that Senator Hillyard would be more concerned about the “trials and tribulations” of legislators than the bigger picture of encouraging public faith in Utah’s institutions.

  11. […] to try and find out what’s going on. The posts of their respective websites, Vox Populi and The Senate Site, summarize their view fairly well. For those who don’t have time to read it all (though I […]

  12. […] Jason Williams on Mar.05, 2011, under Posts The Senate Site has posted the explanation from lawmakers on the rushed passage of HB477, the bill — now law, assuming the Governor […]

  13. Alan says:

    I think it is completely acceptable to change the law to allow our representatives to keep their personal and work email, text messages, and voicemail private.

    They should not have to give up all aspects of personal privacy in their lives merely because they took a barely over minimum wage job for a few weeks each winter.

    • Tyler Riggs says:

      Alan, their personal contacts were already excluded from records requests under the old law. Now, with these revisions, ALL communications are unavailable for the public to request. This means the lawmakers can communicate with each other, electronically, regarding the public’s business in secrecy.

      It’s absolutely wrong. It will be challenged in court. The taxpayers will spend thousands of dollars fighting the case on behalf of the arrogant lawmakers, and the lawmakers will lose.

    • Raili says:

      Thank you for your comment. It seems everyone is taking the anti-government stance on this bill. Seeing that someone besides myself is giving the legislature the benefit of the doubt is refreshing.

  14. Student Press Law Center, gets to the real heart of the disservice to the public HB477’s passage represents:

    Their subterfuge nicely makes its own case. When elected officials know they are about to do something contrary to the public interest that well-informed voters would regard as outrageous, they do it in secrecy. Good ideas can become great ideas with the benefit of public input, and great ideas can withstand exposure to vigorous debate. The proponents of HB 477 knew that their case for greater government secrecy would collapse if subjected to scrutiny, so they made sure no scrutiny could occur.

    Frankly, they should be ashamed of themselves.

  15. Concerned says:

    May the governor have the good sense and decency to not sign this bill. In one fail swoop this bill manages to do more harm to the checks and balances set in place than the current president has done in two years. Way to go!

    Anything that has to be done in secrecy or behind closed doors is something that shouldn’t be done. Shame on everyone of the spineless politicians who allowed this bill to pass without public debate or scrutiny!!

    The Utah legislature has proven they are like every other bunch of lousy politicians— always looking out for number 1. My current representatives need not count on my vote again.

  16. Roger Brown says:

    Yes, let us all pray that the Governor vetoes it! Call him today, this morning @ 801-538-1000. His constituents office opens at 7:30am.

    Send him an email too —

    The rationalizations in the original post above are very sad.

    As others have said, any problems with the current law need to be fixed with a scalpel, not with a sledgehammer.

    Thank you to those above that blew open the rationalizations.

    Please, call the Governor now — 801-538-1000

  17. […] Utah legislature, who have offered their explanations here and here (read the comments for some great responses), claim that it is protecting their […]

  18. Dorrene Jeske says:

    In an effort to justify such despicable legislation, the Senate has stated that they updated a process that is outdated because of the changes in communication tools. If that were the case, many aspects of HB 477 are unnecessary and overkill. It really allows governments to unwisely spend taxpayer money, pass legislation that benefits them and their supporters – in other words, it promotes corruption in government agencies.
    The name of each legislator who voted for this bill should be published so that these men and women can be scorned by their neighbors and all their constituents. They need to be held accountable for promoting and passing such despicable legislation and face the contempt of their neighbors and the public and pay the consequences for their disregard for their constituents.
    Voters in Utah need to speak out again and clean out the legislature as they did last fall when U.S. Sen. Bennett was replaced.

    I am a former city council member of Ogden City and have personally seen how operating behind closed doors and in secracy leads to corruption in government.

  19. ChristyK says:

    As a travel writer, I often encourage people to visit Utah, which means I spend a lot of time trying to convince people that Utah is not as backward as they think it is. And every legislative session, I cringe when elected officials do backward things like this that reverse all that hard work I and others do to get people to give Utah a try.

    The public has a right to know what is going on in government. Therefore, public-records requests are not “fishing expeditions.” And the very definition of a journalist’s job (or the job of any concerned citizen, really) is to dig through lots of information (which government tends to generate) in order to expose truth. If cost is an issue, maybe you should pass a law saying that if a public official commits a crime against taxpayers, then that public official should have to pay taxpayers back. I know that will never happen, of course…just wanted to see you legislators shaking in your boots at the notion that you might be held accountable.

    Taxpayers hired you guys and yes, they pay your salaries, so they’re your bosses. That gives them the right to know what you’re doing. Stop giving them reasons to wade through public documents in order to find out what you’re up to, and maybe requests will decrease.

  20. sharonBergeman says:

    What in the world were you all thinking, in passing HB477, We elected you, so what do you have to hide, that you don’t want your taxpayers to know. When you are Elected to Public Office, It means just that, you are in the public eye, it comes with the job. Dont say you are too busy, cause you haven’t been here Ferron, for awhile.

  21. Tyler Seamons says:

    Amen Tyler! Holy cow, I’ve never known the local government to be this blatantly stupid. But I’m still young. I’m sure I’ll see more in the future.

    Recall or veto, I don’t care which, but 477 has to go or you’ll all go in the next election.

  22. Ed Kociela says:

    As Local News Editor at The Spectrum in St. George, here’s my blog today on HB477:

    What closet are you trying to keep locked?
    What stone don’t you want turned over?
    What have you got to hide, Gov. Herbert and the Utah Legislature?
    What is wrong with you that you want to keep the people’s business out of sight, hidden away, inaccessible?
    What dirty laundry don’t you want aired?
    I know, deep in my heart, that the impetus behind HB477, which would effectively eliminate public access to government and official records, is a desperate slap in the direction of the media. Government and the press do not, have not and never will get along. They do stuff they don’t want anybody to know about, we find out about it and expose them. Plain and simple.
    Forget all that lovey dovey stuff, we do not get along and we SHOULD not get along. This ain’t no tea party. As the watchdog for the public good, it is our responsibility to hold them all, regardless of political affiliation, accountable. And, it is not cynical to approach each issue with at least a little suspicion. Remember the old rule of follow the money at all times.
    This one isn’t about money, however. It is about rescinding the rights issued under the Government Records Acccess and Management Act.
    The bill is headed to the governor’s desk.
    In the name of honesty, Gov. Herbert, veto this travesty.
    This is not the old Soviet Bloc, where history was erased and rewritten, where the business of government was deeply hidden.
    Gov. Herbert, this is not Nazi Germany. We do not need a control on the news, actions and intent of our government. We elected you, we have every right to know how you spent every penny we paid in taxes, how you conduct business, who you conduct it with and how.
    It is OUR government, not yours. This is not some private endeavor or business, this is the people’s business.
    I ask that everybody and anybody who cares about honesty and integrity call the governor’s office at (801) 538-1000 or his press secretary, Ally Isom, at (801) 538-1503.
    Tell them this is outrageous legislation. Tell them that the writers of this bill are out of touch with the democratic process, that just because they may have a chip on their shoulder against the media, their actions are harming the entire population. More than 90 percent of all government information requests come from residents, not the media, you know.
    Tell them that the childish actions of a self-aggrandizing Legislature will undermine the tenets of what this nation stands for, that you will not tolerate this ridiculous piece of work cobbled together by a bunch of petty men and women who know no other way to strike out at “the enemy.”
    YOU, dear reader, have a right to know about your leaders, how they are behaving, what they are doing with your taxes, how your family, friends and neighbors are being treated — whether by police or government officials.
    Call the governor’s office at (801) 538-1000, or his press secretary at (801) 538-1503.
    Tell them you will not stand for this loss of our rights as citizens of this country.
    And, if they give you grief, tell them I asked you to call.
    I’ll take the heat.

  23. Dathan Hight says:

    “With a few very impressive exceptions, media outlets struggle to cover HB 477 objectively.”

    What exceptions? Please post.

  24. Roger Brown says:

    Amen! HB 477 has got to go!

    Either you repeal it or we’ll repeal you in the next election!

    It’s not too late to change your mind. Please, please reconsider.

    Amongst the most glaring points i think are:

    #1 – it puts the onus on people to prove that a record should be released instead of the current onus being on the government to prove that it should not be released. absolutely backwards.

    #2 – it raises the fees without a hard limit! extremely bogus.

    #3 – it hides ALL electronic communication. if this bill passes we would be absolutely dead last amongst the states in freedom of information! Truly, truly shameful!

    Call the Governor now @ 801-538-1000 today before 6pm.

    It literally takes only 60 seconds of your time to voice your vote with his staff. I hear their phone lines are smoking — keep the heat on!!!

  25. Chris Jones says:

    Shame on you.
    You are not acting like Republicans.
    Your arguments are bogus and speak down to us.
    We are smarter than that.
    I am so shocked my Republican party would pass a secrecy bill.
    Reverse yourself. And stop lying to us.
    GRAMA has done so much good to this state. Why do you want to hide government?
    You are sounding like fools. Give me my party back.

    • Babs says:

      Talk to your Representatives about this. I agreed with you originally, then I looked past what the media (which, by the way, has an obvious incentive to be bias) was dishing out. I talked to two of my representatives. Maybe you still won’t agree, but there is some reason to it. It is not a bunch of old, fat men trying to hide everything from their constituents.

  26. I find these arguments pretty disingenuous. GRAMA already allows the government to charge for the direct administrative costs of filling a request. GRAMA already protects personal communications and those whose disclosure would cause an unwarranted invasion of privacy. There is indeed an apparent conflict between the intent language and other parts of GRAMA regarding what happens when the arguments for secrecy and disclosure carry equal weight. The correct resolution is to err on the side of transparency, but HB 477 says secrecy prevails and the burden of proof is always on the requester to show otherwise.

  27. Tiffanie Matthews says:

    All I can say is WOW! Unbelievable! It is important that everyone do what they can to rally anyone and everyone within their circles of influence to make their voices heard about this outrageous bill. We all need to contact our state reps and senators and the governor. DO NOT KEEP QUIET OR ONCE AGAIN YOUR RIGHTS WILL BE CHIPPED AWAY. This bill is a travesty.

  28. Tom says:

    The sad part for me, a forty plus year member and supporter of the GOP, is the complete dearth of statesmen in the party leadership. Not one person from the Governor down has stood up and said – “this is BS, the people have a right to know the truth about Government!”. Instead they all seem to be conspiring to let it stand and sweep it under the rug until the hoi polloi settle down and forget about the big dark curtain the Capital Gang are pulling shut over their dealings.

    If this stands, I will never give another dime or minute of time to the Republican Party or Republican candidate.

  29. Wendy Jenkin says:

    The question of why this bill was rushed through the legislature at double the speed of light and then signed by our compliant governor at the same speed still has to be answered. Obviously someone or many have something to hide.
    I feel like I have time travelled back to the bad old days when I used to live in South Africa under a white minority government who felt that they could do anything they wanted regardless of the will of the people. Accountable to whom? These guys aren’t interested in you and I, only in themselves and the almighty dollar.

    • Babs says:

      The reason why it was rushed through is simple: media. The media and the legislature have been bitter enemies on this one, and both have played dirty. The legislature has been openly working on changing GRAMA law for years, but the media has never bothered to notify the public. They made a big story about it now because they they do not want GRAMA changed, and they believed that they might have a chance at repealing it if they could incite the public. Frankly, the media has been very bias about this subject. Having watched some of the interviews be conducted, I know that they have skewed comments and left out a lot. That being said, the legislature has played dirty, too. They knew that the media would have a field day when they discovered all of the changes, so they tried to get GRAMA through as quickly as they could (that way the public wouldn’t have time to be incited).

  30. Tyler Riggs says:

    “9. West Valley City had to deal with a request for all land-use decisions over the past 30 years; it took 1 full time person 3 months, including multiple reviews by other staff, to fill the request. Costs approached $30,000.”

    Please source this. I am receiving information that West Valley City has never received such a request.

  31. j hinds says:

    There is more thoughtful discourse here than occurred in passing this bill. THAT is why the bill needs to be repealed. THAT is why we need to have informational access and input.

    My deep gratitude to the commentators here. Government needs watchdogs. Single party government especially.

  32. Jacob says:

    Does someone need to file a Grama request about where you got your “facts” about the WVC request, or will you respond to that here?

  33. RC says:

    Tyler & Jacob – appreciate the heads-up on the issue. This bullet point came to us from West Valley City via the Utah League of Cities and Towns. We doublechecked and still believe it is correct. If it’s not, we’ll retract it. Call me anytime.


  34. Glenn Embry says:

    To me, none of the reasons you posted are valid reasons for passing HP-477. I am convinced the only reason it was passed, and passed so quickly was so that you and your band of brothers could increase the amount of back room deals and to continue to misguide the citizens of this state.

    You need to know that I intend to do anything and everything I can to ensure none of you who voted for this bill will be reelected including the govenor, EVEN if it means supporting a democrat. You will see and hear from myslef and everyone I can influence when you try to run for reelection. You have done a serious injustice to all by passing this bill.

  35. John F Wuthrich says:

    1- There may be a reason for these so called fishing expeditions. Like who asked and approved that HB477 not be released until made available for public distribution. What is wrong with lawyers and media asking for information? That is there job, to protect and inform.

    2- I read GRAMA, all of it. I had no problem interpreting the words. Every thing was in plain English, no legalize. The concepts and provisions were pretty plain, it’s weighted to the rights of the people, not the government. If you are thinking the other way around you might have a problem interpreting it that way.

    3- I didn’t read anything is GRAMA that would matter how the content was delivered. It is content we are talking about now how it was delivered. The phone was invented long before GRAMA. If I called on the phone to piece of legislation that is not private. If I talk to you in person about a bill that is not private. If you make notes on the bill I talked to you about that is not private. Read 63G-2-201,302,303,304,and 305. Besides GRAMA was amended in 2008. Section 63G-2-301 states that business e-mail addresses are records for public review as proof.

    4- I imagine this was a law suit and there probably was no other way to get the information needed. So what are you saying it takes time? I want to be able to get information if I need it for a law suit too.

    5- There are over a hundred legislators. 400 hours comes to an average of 4 hours per year. But I imagine some legislators have ethics concerns and they were hit with a bunch of hours. That is part of being a legislator it comes with the job. Just like your entitlements. I hear no complaining about those though.

    6- Fees are discussed in section 63G-2-201 and there is a whole section 63G-2-203. Freedom cost money.

    7- This is basically untrue read sections 63G-2-202 and 302.

    8- So because some law makers don’t believe the media won’t negotiate in good faith is reason to hide a bill from the public that employs them?

    9- Again, I imagine this was a legal case that was necessary to present the case. I wonder how much this coming up special session is going to cost the tax payers to discuss this bill?

    10- You seem to keep complaining about some one using GRAMA. Get over it, that’s what it is ment for.

    11- I read the Utah Supreme Court findings and they based their findings on sections
    63G-2-102 3,e and 63G-2-404 8,a. Read #2 about trying to interpret in favor of the government.

    12- See # 10

    13- Why should notes be protected if they concern legislative business? If I talk to a legislator in regards to bill and he/she takes notes on it, WHY should they be protected?

    14- Nobody’s e-mail address is private. Programs like cookies can pull your e-mail address off your computer when you visit a web site. How do you think you get SPAM. Nobody’s house address is private, nobody’s name is private. Creating this bill under the guise of privacy is laughable.

    15- GRAMA was brought up to date in 2008. And the statement about media bosses picking off legislators is called lobbying.

    16- Most legislators are overreacting. There are no theoretical protections in sections
    63G-2-302, 303, 304, and 305. These are actual laws written by the legislators.

    17- I’m sorry but this one is total BS. If any of it was true it wouldn’t have been hidden and pass through in he devious, deceitful way it was.

    18- What does Technology have to do with GRAMA. GRAMA is based on content not how it was delivered. Whether by Pony Express or Brain Wave Decoding. It’s the content that matters.

    19- Refer to #3

    When you read HB 477 and you look at the devious way is was sent though the House and Senate you know the intent of the legislature. It wasn’t to upgrade GRAMA to the new technology. It wasn’t to make GRAMA more open, or to change the original intent of GRAMA. It wasn’t to protect the privacy of the people. It was made for one reason, and that is to protect legislators from ethics scrutiny.

  36. […] have zeroed in on not only the chilling substance of the bill, but also on the leadership’s weak or overblown arguments for the legislation. The leaders cited privacy fears and the costs of […]

  37. Chris says:

    Who’s to blame for HB477 and SB165 (which prevents e-signatures from being valid on ballots)? Look in the mirror. This is what happens when you give ANY party a 95% majority. They feel they can govern on a whim and that the public can’t be trusted with the grown up job of governing. By their actions they have proven that will give us less transparency in government, Illegal closed door meetings, a state hand gun, and open season on feral cats. And to make it harder for citizens to correct these offenses through ballot initiatives and propositions, they make e-signatures invalid, and increase the required number of signatures from 65,000 to 97,000! Seems they feel that they know whats best for Utah and that the citizens should BUTT OUT.

  38. Larry says:

    Telling me that it will cost taxpayers too much to give us information in response to reasonable requests is the same as telling me that my representatives are taking care of themselves and their friends and do not want me to know.

    There is corruption in Utah. If you want Utah to stay relatively well governed, keep those with power working in the light. We need light, for example, on those who are profiting from the contracts the Department of Transportation has been making. Which of the people influencing these contracts are getting rewards from the companies that get the taxpayer money? Who should be held accountable? Are these people going to confess or will the media have to find them. My representatives should not shield the wrongdoers.

    The only counterforce to people in government jobs benefiting themselves and their friends is the ability of the media to find the malfeasance and let the public know what is happening.

    You say responses to GRAMA requests took 400 hours of staff time? I’ll bet more than that were wasted on birthday celebrations, talking about sports, etc. Keep it all in perspective! Millions were lost on bad and illegal transactions for lack of a few more timely GRAMA requests and staff hours spent working.

    You say you are concerned about the disclosure of personal information in response to GRAMA requests? If you are sincerely concerned about the violation of privacy and personal information, why is your voice not among the loudest of those decrying the violation of our most private parts and personal information by the TSA at the cost of billions of dollars in lost productivity and taxes?

    You have held my respect as a representative until now. Can you earn it back?

  39. Bill says:

    100 hours to handle 30 GRAMA requests is hardly an undue burden on the citizens of Utah to protect their interests in their government’s work. This whole “blame the press” and “it’s costing us a lot” is a smokescreen, and nothing else.

    BTW, who sponsors this website? It sure doesn’t seem very objective. Rather, it just reflects the Republican domination that is the Utah Legislature.

    After reading this I’m still on the side of repeal HB477 and vote everyone out of office who supported this assault on our rights.

  40. Hannah says:

    If you want to handle personal matters, BUY A PERSONAL CELL PHONE. If an employee sends personal email using his company email, he has no right to privacy in this context. If my husband uses his company-provided cell phone to send text messages, those texts are company property. The legislators of Utah are our employees, and as long as we are paying for their cell phones and email addresses, we have a right to see what they are sending. They are more than welcome to get a hotmail account and conduct their personal business therein; GRAMA as written prior to March 2011 already allowed for this. Don’t be fooled by their smokescreen of “new technology requires new rules.” It absolutely does not.

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