Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Utah HB477 Mess

It has been widely publicized that the Utah Legislature passed, and Governor Herbert signed into law, the highly controversial bill that dramatically changes the public's access to government records. The changes to GRAMA, or Government Records Access and Management Act, provide special status to certain electronic communications of elected officials. HB477 also increased the fees and allows government agencies an indefinite amount of time to respond to records requests.

Utahns are upset and down right angry at their elected representatives over their votes to pass this fast-tracked bill. The public was not allowed time to review and comment on HB477 before the legislature acted in haste to pass this bill that could potentially make our State and local governments less transparent. All citizens want to know what their elected representatives are doing while on the job. And the elected officials who argue that their electronic communications with constituents and other officials should be protected for privacy reasons should remember that they work for us, the people of the State of Utah. If they don't want their emails to be read, they should step down from their elected position and allow the voters in their district to elect someone who will do the job in an open manner. Can you imagine what an employer would say if an employee of thier business said the owner couldn't read their emails because they were "private". Give me a break. That employee would be fired so fast his head would spin! Our elected representatives should not be treated any differently.

I'm glad to see that my State Senator, Steve Urquhart, realizes he made a mistake in voting for HB477. You can read his statement here.We all make mistakes, and I'm glad Steve can admit that and move forward to correct the mistake. I agree with Steve that HB477 should be scrapped, and then we should move forward to improve GRAMA in a way that addresses our modern electronic communications but still provides the citizens of Utah a transparent government.

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