Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday Morning HB477 News Roundup

Gov Herbert speeds HB477 toward repeal... then again, maybe not

According to this morning's Standard-Examiner, Gov. Gary Herbert plans to call the legislature into a special session on Friday to repeal HB 477:

Whatever happens on Friday depends, of course, on whether the very Machiavellian Senate President Mr. Waddoups manages to organize Senate opposition to block that move, due to (get this) the "cost of holding a special session":

And in another interesting twist, the legislative majority announces the members of a working group to consider changes to HB477, which group includes (and no, we are not making this up) Ogden City's own Mark Johnson:

(Remember, folks, neoCON Senator Scott Jenkins is Boss Godfrey's cousin - wink, wink.)

Meanwhile, and notwithstanding the Governor's the call for a special session, HB477 opponents continue with their ongoing petition drive, "just in case":

And in an interesting background sidebar, former Former Governor Olene Walker says she was "amazed" by the speed that HB 477 was passed by lawmakers:

(Special thanks to our friends at Utah Policy Daily, who helped round up some of the above story links.)

4 comments:

Vote for change said...

This flip flopping by our elected leaders would be comical if it wasn't so sad.

They all sound like Senator John Kerry who was "for it before he was against it" or is it the other way around?

What all this clearly indicates is that our lawmakers do not listen to their constituents. They act out of party loyalty or just pigheadedness. Now they are trying to scramble around and deny responsibility.

This again is an object lesson on why people need to vote for different leaders in the next election.

Brad Dee is a waste said...

I guess they want to do everything possible to hide how they are going to gerrymander the crap out of utah.

ozboy said...

Interesting how the comments over at the DNews site are going vis-a-vis the HB477 fiasco.

It appears that the MoMo voice of conservatism and it's readers are about 99 to 1 against the Governor and Legislature on this ill conceived and very clumsily executed raid on the public's right to know.

It sure is fun to watch the disingenuous bastards in the Legislature scramble to cover their asses on this one. It is not often that the sheeple of Utah rise up and call bull shit!

Dan S. said...

Here's another interesting Trib article, about the effect of GRAMA on local governments. I'll reproduce my comments below:

It's absolutely true that some local governments and other entities make extra work for themselves as they respond to GRAMA requests. Some of this is lawyer paranoia, and some is simply trying to find every possible excuse to withhold records whenever possible.

For example, whenever I've asked Ogden City for copies of emails, their procedure is to have the affected employees print out the emails, which then go to the city attorney's office for review. The attorneys are doing an enormous amount of unnecessary work, which under HB 477 they could charge the requester for. It would be much less work if the employee who sent or received an email were allowed to make the determination to release it in the vast majority of cases, consulting the city attorney only for those emails that the employee thinks should be withheld. It would also be easier for everyone if the vast majority of requested emails were never printed but simply released in electronic form. Another problem with the current procedure is that the employees often "forget" to print out the attachments when they're printing out the emails.


[The following is in response to a comment saying that GRAMA is ineffective because individual agency heads end up unilaterally deciding what records to release.]

Good point. However, GRAMA does provide an administrative appeals process that sometimes works extremely well. If your request is to a state agency or to a subdivision that doesn't have its own appeals process, you can appeal to the State Records Committee which is pretty objective. (They still sometimes make mistakes.)

One of the biggest weaknesses with GRAMA is that it allows subdivisions (cities, counties, school districts, etc.) to set up their own appeals processes, bypassing the State Records Committee. In this case, your appeal is often decided by people who are too closely associated with the entity and who therefore aren't very objective. Also, they often aren't very familiar with the GRAMA law itself. And sometimes a subdivision will simply ignore your appeal and not even give you a hearing.

When the appeal process breaks down for any of these reasons, you can still go to court. But that's time consuming and unless you can afford a high-powered media lawyer, you're almost certain to be outgunned by the taxpayer-funded lawyers who will represent the government. The good news is that if you win, you can sometimes recover your attorney's fees. But even winning can take years, and by then the records may no longer have any value.

If we're going to reform GRAMA, we should reform the appeals process for subdivisions so that you always get a hearing in front of a reasonably objective board or committee. The simplest fix would be to always allow appeals to the State Records Committee. Secondly, there should be an administrative process for fining the government when it unreasonably withholds records or delays their release.

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