Saturday, February 21, 2009

Contact Your State Senators - House Bill 122 Would Enhance the Government's Ability to Keep Secrets

The Standard-Examiner's Andy Howell strongly chimes in on pending GRAMA-gutting legislation

This morning's Standard-Examiner has another informative column on a topic we've been raving about here at Weber County Forum all month, i.e., Representative Aagard's HB 122. Check out Std-Ex Executive Editor Andy Howell's take on the subject:
House Bill 122 would allow government to keep secrets
Editor Andy makes note of a specific recent situation where the public would likely have been denied important information relative to a recent Kaysville shooting, if Aagard's new legislation had been in place:
Now the Legislature wants to thwart Don and Jesse’s efforts by gutting GRAMA with HB 122. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Douglas Aagard, R-Kaysville, basically will allow government to keep secret any document if officials believe there is pending litigation.
To use an argument that a lot of our lawmakers love, this is a slippery slope.
Jesse says if HB 122 had been in place when the Farmington police standoff with Brian Wood took place last year, the public might not know to this day that a police officer shot Wood.
Farmington police refused to make any public comment during the standoff. Neither neighbors, the media, the community nor the family had a good idea of what was going on.
“At the confusing and stressful conclusion to the standoff, an officer mistakenly relayed on his radio that the suspect had shot himself,” Jesse said.
“Without any input from police to correct the error, media took this small crumb of (mis)information they gleaned from their police scanners and unanimously reported it the next day.”
It was only because of GRAMA that Farmington police held a news conference the next day to tell the community that the suspect had not shot himself, but actually was shot by a deputy.
Farmington police had reason to anticipate litigation by the Wood family over the incident.
Moreover, Mr. Howell deftly raises another issue that we hadn't previously considered:
Here’s the crux. HB 122 will actually encourage more litigation because it will be the only means of getting such information. Jesse said the Wood case reveals why government agencies need to be required to release records “especially if there is the possibility of litigation.”
Troublingly, Aagard's potentially GRAMA-gutting legislation has already cleared the House of Representatives, and has already had its first reading in the Senate, where it will probably sail through without much opposition... unless the lumpencitizens act fast... and rattle a few senatorial cages.

Andy Howell is right. HB 122 is bad legislation. This bill's seeming inexorable progress must be stopped in its tracks.

Once again we post this handy Senate contact information link.

You know what to do... Do it NOW.

16 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

It gets worse. There is another bill making its way through that would deny attorney fees being paid to citizens or private groups who sue the state... and win. [Reported in the SL Trib yesterday, but since the Trib does not have available the actual pages of the paper on line as the SE does --- good choice, SE --- it is not coming up on a search of their website so I cannot link. I do not recall the number of the bill.]

This would make Utah the only state in the Union, I think, in which attorney fees would not be awarded to private citizens or private groups that sue the state and win.

The legislative goal of both the GRAMA gutting bill and the attorney's fees bill is to keep citizens in the dark about what their government is doing. If both pass, and you sue to gain access to records you believe have been wrongfully withheld under the present, or future, GRAMA laws, and you win, your attorney fees would not be paid by the state. This would inevitably reduce the number of suits being filed against the state by wronged citizens and taxpayers. That is of course its purpose.

These guys are shameless.

I would not be surprised if Mayor Godfrey has instructed the administration's lobbyist to work for the passage of both bills. I would not be surprised at all.

RudiZink said...

Curm:

If you'd be willing to specify when this article appeared in the SLTrib hard-copy edition, I've already talked to one of the SLTrib editors who'd be happy to put the artilcle online.

Curmudgeon said...

Rudi:

It was in Friday's paper, I think. I've noticed in the past that their legislative update stories in the print edition do not always make it to the web edition. I left my copy in a coffee shoppe.
Hope that helps.

Utah Teacher said...

Here's the link:

Bill would discourage citizen-led lawsuits

The new law is sponsored by Senator Urquhart and is ironically numbered SB 53, the same number as last year's bill which was struck down by the Utah Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The new SB 53 is in response to the state having to pay for that power grab. Urquhart is smart enough to do that on purpose I think. Last year's law banned citizens from having a referendum on all land-use laws and was correctly seen as giving government carte blanche to take away our rights to overturn their decisions.

Rudi, if you personally know a Trib editor, how about also giving them a nudge to keep their articles up longer than a week or two. I've got the text to this link saved just in case.

Curmudgeon said...

Utah Teacher:

Thanks very much for the link.

Machster said...

Sometimes I wish this state offered enough of a future to entice our family to remain.

Preping to move in a down economy takes a lot of work and planning.

I say this because what I believe is very much needed is a comprehensive organized group of people (such as many of those who participate on this blog Danny, Oz, Curm, Rudi, Bill C., Dorothy, and several others who obviously care) who would agree to meet weekly, compile and record the votes of various legislators on the various bills. And then publish the results, along with explanations of the impacts of these proposed bills, on ordinary residents.

The group could even form a "report card" on our Weber, Davis, and Morgan legislators and other local "elected public servants" based upon such factors as fiscal responsibility/spending, public property rights versus Realtor/Developer rights, civil liberties, "Nanny state nonsense", LDS BS in your business, Campaign Finance glutony and abuse, Ethics and Conflict of Interest violations, etc.

And at election time, as a non profit, perhaps enough money could be collected from donations (assuming full transparency and website accounting/tracking of donations) to publish and put out there the truth about these legislators (and other local elected public servants) who are basically twisted retards, nem-com-poots, and shills for the various big money lobby groups. To show how they basically have no brain or independent thought capabilites but are told by their Unions, or special interest groups (and their lobbyists) what to sponsor and how to vote.

This list of report cards could include the Mayor of Ogden, Commissioners of Weber County, and the members of the WACOG (Weber Area Council of Governments). As well as Davis and Morgan Counties.

These local "Mayors" and League of County brain deads, who are as I write this, are parcing our Recreation, Arts, Parks and Museums (RAMP Grant money) millions, to School playgrounds and county subsidized community athletic gyms, pools, tennis courts, etc. in the form of public clubs to illegally (or at minimum fly in the face of capitalism by practicing socialistic policy which cross the line) compete with Gold's Gym, Ogden Athletic Club, etc.

And then there are the same GOP by twisted claim only, RINOs in other words, idiots who take Federal Grant monies in the millions which are supposed to be Community Development Block Grants. And form a list of out of bounds and illegal grant money usage for City wide side walks, water pipes, and basic infrastructure. If a community elected public servant make a request for CDBG money within the intended purpose for those funds, they will turn down requests based upoon it not, ironically, being on this illegal (IAW CDBG rules for usage) list. And the requests these same WACOG baffoons turn down are for senior centers, Marshal White type community centers, and blighted area/community infrastructure improvements, meals on wheels and shut-ins assistance and the like, which is exactly what the true intent of the CDBG money is intended for. They, the WACOG, misappropriate and lie in other words. So much so that Utah has had its CDBG money cut, in half or more, due to the word making it back to Wash DC and Feds. who oversee the use of the CDBG money. These are our "elected public servants in action" gentle blog readers.

Squirt said...

This assault on GRAMA can be directly linked to the activist's success in bringing the folly of our legislature and Commissioners on various subjects to the public's knowledge. These good old boy and girls that make up much of our elected officials do not want the average citizens digging around in their sacred soil. You can always tell when the probing hits pay dirt, the "Wall of Silence" appears from elected officials.

All I can say is keep digging and exposing their lack of care or interest, sunlight on these subject never hurt anything.

my oh my said...

Everyone can see how your Reps voted on the GRAMA bill.
HB122

monotreme said...

I am happy to see that Rep. Wallis voted "no". I had contacted him expressing my concern about HB 122, and I see that he has voted his conscience.

Everything I have seen so far this session indicates that Rep. Wallis is a class act. Sorry, Curmudgeon, but I think we've got us a good Republican here, one who represents our interests better than the Democratic candidate would have.

Petunia said...

I am happy to report that Gage Froerer voted against the GRAMA change bill. Good for you Gage!

Allan Christensen voted for it, remember that when he comes up for reelection. We will remind everyone.

lionel said...

Mono

You can bet your ass that had Allen been elected instead, that he would have voted in favor of this attempt to shut the public out of their own government. He would have done so for the benefit of his shiny little punk son in law who so loves secrecy in all of his back room dealings.

Curmudgeon said...

Mono:

Wow, Mono, you're easily impressed. The session is half over. And you're impressed by one vote? Let us see where Mr. Wallis cames down on the whole market basket of important bills when the session is over. Then we can evaluate his performance overall during his first legislative session in the first half of his term. Not before.

Unlike many here [not you, I don't think, Mono], I think elected officials should be evaluated on their performance in office, all things considered, not on the basis of how they vote on one bill, or on the basis of one decision they make. Since I've never voted for a successful candidate who subsequently voted on every issue the way I would have --- disappointing of them, I know, and certainly unwise, but there it is --- I think it's necessary when deciding if Candidate X deserves re-election to ask this: "On balance, overall, in light of his full record in office, does he deserve another term?" We're along way from being able to answer that question [either way] in re: Mr. Wallis.

As for Lionel's post above: I think you're wrong on how Mr. Allen would have voted on the GRAMA bill. But predictions [yours and mine] about what someone would have done on an issue that they were never asked about [the GRAMA gutting bill had not been introduced at the time of the election] and took no position on are worth exactly what it cost to make them: nothing.

RudiZink said...

"Allan Christensen voted for it..."

Correction. Petunia.

Allen Christensen DID NOT vote for it. Christensen is a State Senator, and HB 122 hasn't yet come up for any vote in the Senate.

monotreme said...

I'm not that easily impressed, nor am I a single-issue voter (you're right about that). I just wanted to tease my bud Curmudgeon a bit.

There is so little good news coming out of the current legislative session, I had to seize on a tiny scrap.

dReWmEiStEr said...

machster: take me with youuuuuuuuuuuu!! pleeease!!

Curmudgeon said...

Mono:

Reported elsewhere here that Wallis did not vote to kill the gay rights bills he got to vote on. Early days yet, but you may in the end be right after all. We shall see...

As for grasping at whatever straw of good news comes out of the Utah legislature.... I understand. Believe me, I understand....

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