GRAMA Watch 2019–Praising legislative bills for transparency and calling out secrecy bills

The Utah Media Coalition operates GRAMA Watch to identify certain legislative bills as “Bright Lights,” meaning they have a positive effect on open government, or “Lights Out,” meaning the bill would reduce government transparency.

The Utah Media Coalition represents Utah news organizations and the Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and it draws on attorneys who are experts in First Amendment law and government access. The coalition encourages Utahns to let their representatives know their thoughts on these bills and on open government in general.

For further information, contact Jeffrey Hunt (801 257 7921) or Michael P. O’Brien (801 534 7315).

GRAMA Watch notes

House Bill 39 Second Substitute Independent Entities compliance amendments (Rep. Perry)

This bill brings a variety of entities under the requirements of the Utah Open and Public Meetings Act and the Government Records Access and Management Act. The entities include the Utah Dairy Commission, the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, the Utah State Fair Corporation, the Utah Communications Authority and others. These are publicly funded entities that should be transparent.
This bill gets a “Bright Light” from GRAMA Watch.

House Bill 74 Second Substitute Open Meetings Amendments (Rep. Handy) —

This bill would make it legal for elected government bodies to close meetings to discuss responses to audits. The Utah Board of
Education seeks this exception to the Open Meetings Act because the audits are not yet public. These responses can be and already are successfully managed under current law through email and other communications. This bill invites more government secrecy, and it gets a “Lights Out” from GRAMA Watch.

Senate Bill 25 Records committees (Sen. Harper)

This bill creates a State Records Management Committee to make decisions on how long government entities must retain their public records. This work is currently done by the State Records Committee, whose primary purpose is to hear appeals for records requests. Adding this new committee will improve both the appeals and the record-retention processes, and SB25 gets a “Bright Light” from GRAMA Watch.

Senate Bill 197 Law Enforcement Agency Amendments (Sen. Bramble)

This bill clarifies that a private college or university’s police department, if certified by the state as a law enforcement agency, is
subject to records disclosure requirements under the Government Records Access and Management Act. Such departments have full police powers, and records disclosure is a crucial public check on those powers. This bill is a win for open government and gets a “Bright Light” from GRAMA Watch

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