Monday, February 09, 2009

SL Trib: Panel OKs Bill Weakening Public Access to Government Records

A heads-up on yet another government transparency-unfriendly bill, introduced and sponsored by a couple of the usual neoCON GOP suspects

Here's more bad news from the Salt Lake Tribune this afternoon about the effort of at least a few members of the Utah GOP, (the party ostensibly dedicated to get Big Government off our backs) to shut down (via House Bill 122) some of the most important "sunshine on government" protections of the Utah GRAMA Act. It's a short article, so we'll incorporate it in full:
A bill chipping away at public access to government records advanced to the House floor Monday -- despite strong opposition from the Utah Media Coalition.
HB122 -- sponsored by Rep. Douglas Aagard, R-Kaysville, at the request of the Attorney General's Office -- would remove avenues of appeal for records associated with law-enforcement proceedings, government audits and personnel matters.
It also would allow records associated with anticipated litigation -- lawsuits expected to come but not yet filed -- to be classified as protected, without any chance for the public or the media to appeal.
Attorney Jeff Hunt, representing the Utah Media Coalition, spoke against the measure, urging lawmakers to keep intact the current Government Records Access and Management Act. He called it the state's sunshine law and the window through which the public can view government actions.
In its present form, HB122 would gut the public's ability to argue on behalf of release of a government record, Hunt said.
But the committee voted 7-3 along party lines to advance the bill, with Democrats David Litvack of Salt Lake City, Trisha Beck of Sandy and Larry Wiley of West Valley City voting against it.
Speaking as a life-long libertarian-style (lower case l) Republican (our disdain for the neoCON party faction who destroyed our national party during the past 8 years is boundless,) we confess we can't wrap our brains around the secretive and authoritarian mindset that seems also to have also recently infected the GOP on Utah's Capitol Hill.

What truly conservative limited-government Utah Republicans ought to be doing at this time (in the wake of the Geedubya debacle) is expanding transparency in government, rather than contracting it, we believe.

Here's what one of our gentle readers said, when he provided an email heads-up on this pending bill earlier today:
Rudi, this bill would be a disaster.
As you'll recall, the Utah Supreme Court recently found that records aren't protected merely because of the hypothetical possibility that they might be used in a lawsuit someday in the indefinite future.
Of course, records relevant to an actual lawsuit are generally subject to discovery.
The government has been trying to keep records secret by saying they are prepared in anticipation of litigation, even though there's no actual litigation. It's ridiculous and the Supremes even said so.
We need to kill HB 122.
We're in total agreement on this, and we thus urge our readers to contact their legislators, Republican and Democrat alike, up there in their lairs on Capitol Hill. Let 'em know, in no uncertain terms, that Representative Aagard's HB 122 needs to have a stake driven through its heart.

Here are the House and Senate rosters, respectively:
Utah House Roster
Utah Senate Roster
Please don't dawdle on this. And remember... if this bill passes... every single future GRAMA records request to the Boss Godfrey's administration will be predictably denied, and met with the objection that it involves "the hypothetical possibility that such records might be used in a lawsuit someday in the indefinite future." Remember: It's already hard enough to pry out information under the present GRAMA statute.

Hopefully, a word to the wise is sufficient here.


Happyness is Utah in our rear view mirrow said...

Good luck! It's that "mystic" religious or cult thing rearing its ugly head again and again.

The only solution is to deny public servant offices to Mormons and that will never happen.

Just wait until you see the Neocon Ethics Reform bill they pass.

We all owe them a debt of gratitude for having lowered our State Income taxes too. NOT!!

They are not even talking about any property tax reforms after last year's disaster.

So "Good luck" with getting more transparency in government.

Bill C. said...

Rudi, your party is batting a thousand for the season so far. Another abortion bill, big brother data base for percieved sinners and now an outright statement endorsing secret government, where will it end?

Curmudgeon said...

Bill asks "Where will it end?"

Not sure, but I can suggest a beginning for WC Republicans who have had enough and are tired of being embarrassed by their own party: the Weber County Democratic Party is now accepting new members. No lines. No waiting.

It's a start....

Bullet Sponge said...

I'm in the same boat as you Rudi. There was a day when Republican and conservative meant the same thing. Even though I held some liberal views on certain things by and large the GOP represented the majority of my beliefs. Now it's destroyed itself by creating bigger government and putting us into massive debt.

So now I identify more with the libertarians, but unfortunately so do a lot of kooks.

If the rise of the information age can withstand the attempts to stifle it, perhaps one day we'll see any end to the 2-party system and a rise to a better process where people run strictly on their platform, and not the party's.

joe said...

How unfortunate. We already have one of the weakest records laws in the U.S., now it is going to be weakened? Also, not only will Ogden and others be able to use the excuse "it might be used in a lawsuit someday," the records applicant will have no remedy as the appeals process will be taken away.

danny said...

I have to agree with Curm, the only way to stop these rats is to vote them out - in this case using the Democrats for their one useful purpose - getting rid of long-time Republican office holders.

In the meantime we should write or call our representatives. Passage of this bill would be a disaster and would only make it easier for liars and crooks.

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