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UEG Urges Governor to Veto Legislative Secrecy Amendments

Mar 8, 2011

On Monday, March 7th, UEG urged Governor Herbert to veto HB 477. On Tuesday, the Legislature recalled the bill and changed the effective date of the legislation to July 1, 2011, supposedly to allow time for public input and to allow changes to the bill in a June special session. The public must make sure that the changes are not superficial and that the bill’s bad substance is defeated. Here is our position statement:

HB 477, amendments to GRAMA (the Government Records Access and Management Act), is a bill that severely restricts public access to legislative information. For a Legislature that keeps saying that disclosure and transparency are enough to ensure good ethics, HB 477 is the height of hypocrisy.

  1. The bill was rushed through in the final days of the Legislature, and it is unlikely that even all legislators know all that’s in the bill.
  2. The bill reverses the evidence standards and requires members of the public to demonstrate by a preponderance of evidence that the information should be disclosed. Instead, the government should still be required to demonstrate why the information should not be made public.
  3. The bill increases the costs of obtaining documents by allowing indirect and administrative costs to be charged to those seeking the documents, further burdening the right to access public information.
  4. The bill provides excessive protection to texting and instant messaging even when they contain important legislative information that the public has a right to access.

In short, this bill is a severe restriction on the public’s right to know and reduces the concept of freedom of information to a mere shell of its former self. It deserves a quick veto.