A wrap-up of records and access bills at the Utah Legislature

This session there were multiple bills that addressed open government issues. Perhaps the most far-reaching that passed was H.B. 300 — Body-worn Cameras for Law Enforcement Officers (Rep. McCay, D.) This bill saw many changes. After much work by the Utah Media Coalition, of which Utah Headliners is a member, compromise language was reached that while not all we had hoped for was significantly better than the bill as it passed out of committee.

Following is a rundown of the bills and how they fared in this legislative session. As the sponsor of GRAMA Watch, the Utah Media Coalition gave each a grade (Bright Light, Pale Light, and Lights Out). Those grades and accompanying comments (where available) are included.


 

BILLS THAT PASSED

 House Bills

H.R. 2 — House Resolution — Rules Committee Process (Rep. Noel, M.)

S.R. 2 — Senate Rules Resolution — Rules Committee Notice (Sen. Van Tassell, K.)

S.J.R. 15 — Joint Rules Resolution — Conference Committees (Sen. Van Tassell, K.)

Together, these resolutions describe how the Legislature’s rules and conference committees will provide public notices of their meetings electronically.

Utah Media Coalition: These committees previously did not provide public notices, so this makes their work more accessible to the public, earning a Bright Light from GRAMA Watch.

HB 63: Fees for Government Records Requests  Rep. Brian King

This bill provides for a de novo review on appeal of a fee-waiver request denial in GRAMA records requests.

Utah Media Coalition: Under current law, members of the public may request a waiver of charges for document requests under the Government Records and Access Management Act (GRAMA) when release of the record is in the public interest. This bill would change the appeals process when fee-waiver requests are denied to make it a “de novo” process, meaning that the body deciding the appeal can look at the case freshly without being bound by the earlier decision to deny the waiver. This small change earns a “Bright Light” from GRAMA Watch.

H.B. 118 — Public Access of Administrative Action Amendments (Rep. Greene, B.)

This bill allows that a record of administrative disciplinary action be removed from public state-controlled websites. The record would still be accessible under GRAMA.

H.B. 210 — Media Production Vehicle Exemption (Rep. McCay, D.)

This bill   requires a media production to provide advance notice to law enforcement when using a simulated emergency vehicle on a highway.

House Bill 288, Second Substitute (Educational Records Protection Amendments, Rep. Craig Hall) — This bill clarifies regulations regarding the release of records from schools and colleges. It states that those entities must adhere to Federal Educational Records Protection Act (FERPA) provisions, and it requires FERPA training for school officials who handle records.

Utah Media Coalition: An earlier version of the bill was opposed by GRAMA Watch because it removed GRAMA’s protections for records, but this new version corrected that provision and it receives a Bright Light from GRAMA Watch.

H.B. 300 — Body-worn Cameras for Law Enforcement Officers (Rep. McCay, D.)

H.B. 300 Substitute — Body-worn Cameras for Law Enforcement Officers (Rep. McCay, D.)

This bill provides that a law enforcement agency that uses body-worn cameras shall have a written policy governing their use and providing guidelines for the activation or use of body-worn cameras; along with defining circumstances where that record is private.

Utah Media Coalition: After negotiations between law enforcement and open-government advocates led to this substitute bill, House Bill 300 has returned to providing a suitable balance between the privacy of homeowners and the public’s need to oversee police work. Videos from inside homes are presumed private unless they show an encounter with police that results in a death or bodily injury or an officer’s weapon being fired. The subject of the video can also request its release. This latest version of body-cam legislation gets a Bright Light from GRAMA Watch.

Senate Bills

S.B. 147 — Revisor’s Technical Corrections to Utah Code (Sen. Okerlund, R.)

This bill modifies parts of the Utah Code to make technical corrections, including eliminating references to repealed provisions, making minor wording changes, updating cross-references, correcting numbering, and fixing errors that were created  from the previous year’s session.

 S.B. 190 — Open and Public Meetings Law Revisions (Sen. Mayne, K.)

This bill that exempts conference, rules and sifting committees from the 24-hour Open Meetings Act’s noticing requirements.

S.B. 254 — Administrative Subpoena Amendments (Sen. Madsen, M.)

This bill changes the standard of proof for an administrative subpoena for electronic records from reasonable suspicion to probable cause.


 

BILLS THAT DIED

HB 19 – Expungement Amendments Rep. Brian Greene

This bill allows people to expunge their administrative-court disciplinary records (DOPL, Real Estate, Insurance, Securities, etc.).

H.B. 225 — Cybercrime Amendments (Rep. Lifferth, D.)

This bill  defines critical infrastructure regarding computer crimes and creates the offense of interfering electronically or by computer with critical infrastructure;  provides that reporting a false emergency situation involving violence or harm, and  also reporting that the nonexistent emergency is at a specified location, is a criminal.

Utah Media Coalition: One target of this bill is the online practice of “doxxing,” generally defined as harassing people by posting their personal information, including where they live and work. The bill would make it is a class B misdemeanor to publish online any identifying information — even a person’s name  — if the intent is to annoy or offend the person. While the intent of the bill appears reasonable, it is overly broad and would infringe on people’s First Amendment rights to free speech. Because of these provisions, the bill receives a Lights Out from GRAMA Watch.

H.B. 350 Substitute — Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control — Operations Amendments (Rep. Eliason, S.)

This bill creates the Operations Investigation Program for the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, establishes program responsibilities;  establishes reporting requirements; and designates certain records as private records.

H.B. 353 — Institutions of Higher Education Disclosure Provisions (Rep. Coleman, K.)

This bill, with certain exceptions, requires an institution of higher education to disclose information regarding program completion and job placement for each program; and directs the Board of Regents to adopt rules for the implementation of disclosure requirements.

H.B. 432 — Governmental Nonprofit Entity Compliance Amendments (Rep. Coleman, K.)

This bill provides that the Open and Public Meetings Act, the Government Records Access and Management Act, and the Accounting Reports from Political Subdivisions, Interlocal Organizations, and Other Local Entities apply to a governmental  nonprofit corporation. 

Utah Media Coalition: This bill would put governmental non-profits, such as water and irrigation companies, under the regulation of the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act and the Government Records Access and Management Act. These entities collect and spend the public’s money and make decisions affecting the general public. Their meetings should be open, and their records should be available. HB432 gets a Bright Light from GRAMA Watch.

H.B. 465 — Expungement Act Amendments (Rep. Hutchings, E.)

This bill creates a new definition of “expunge”; requires that an administrative agency remove information regarding expunged 15  convictions from public databases; creates a statement of legislative intent for expungement; and provides a stated purpose for expungement.

H.B. 472 — Gun Owners Privacy Protection Act (Rep. Oda, C.):

H.B. 472 Substitute — Gun Owners Privacy Protection Act (Rep. Oda, C.)

This bill enacts provisions to protect the privacy of persons involved in the transfer of a
firearm. This bill requires a law enforcement officer who receives a certain notification relating to the transfer of a firearm to destroy and delete the notification, and information gathered  from the notification, within a certain period of time; and classifies as a private record the notification and information described in the preceding paragraph.

SENATE

B. 94 — Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras (Sen. Daniel W. Thatcher)

This bill provides that the policies governing the use of body-worn cameras shall meet the minimum  standards established by the Peace Officer Standards and Training Division; and  specified audio or video recordings made by a body-worn camera are considered a  private record.

Utah Media Coalition: This bill addresses the use of body-warn cameras by police officers. The bill does not have language that directs governments to consider the public interest when weighing whether to keep the resulting videos private. It also classifies as private all videos involving “death and gruesome events,” which are often the kind of situations most in need of review by the public. These rules are overly broad and prevent the public from adequately overseeing police work. The bill gets a Lights Out from GRAMA Watch.

 

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