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.

 

Op-ed: The Utah Headliners make a plea for FOIA improvements

The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists submitted the following op-ed to Utah news outlets to be published today or anytime this week, Sunshine Week.

Sunshine Week is a nationwide celebration of access to public information. It is sponsored by a variety of journalism and civic organizations. For more information about Sunshine Week, visit www.sunshineweek.org

Want to publish this op-ed? Just copy and paste it onto your site, with the byline, please. 


With Utah‘s help, the federal government can be more transparent
By The Utah Headliners

Sunshine Week — when people who care about government advocate to make it more transparent — has arrived at a moment in 2016 when Utah‘s congressional delegation can help make the federal government provide citizens more information about its work.

The House has passed a bill that will improve the Freedom of Information Act. The Senate is pondering its own bill. It’s the weaker of the pair, but would still give citizens better access to federal records than what they currently enjoy.

The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists asks Utah‘s congressional delegation to seize this opportunity and improve the federal government’s records law.

You should encourage delegation to pass one of the bills, too. Here’s why.

First, the Freedom of Information Act, known as “FOIA,” is the law which requires the federal government to disclose certain records. If you’ve never filed an FOIA request, you probably side with someone who has. One of the most active requesters is the conservative organization Judicial Watch. Environmental groups request records, too. Academics use FOIA to write a better draft of history.

Journalists in Utah have used the law, too. We’ve obtained reports from federal land agencies, documents about fraud against the government and how bikini models got to photograph a calendar on a Utah National Guard base.

There are some limits that protect individual privacy, safety and security. Often, federal agencies exceed those limits and redact documents or deny requests altogether rather than fulfill the spirit of the law, if not its letter.

In one example, the U.S. Marshals Service has refused to provide journalists a single sheet of paper about, or a snippet of video from, the April 21, 2014, shooting that killed defendant Siale Angilau. That’s despite how the marshal shot Angilau in an open courtroom during a public trial and Angilau’s family and supporters have raised questions about what happened.

Both the House and Senate bills would limit redactions or denials to when an agency “reasonably foresees” that the records would cause “harm” to an interest such as privacy, safety or security. The current law gives the agencies more discretion to withhold records, which leads to secrecy when it isn’t warranted.

The House version also mandates that the federal government pay the attorney fees of anyone who successfully sues the federal government over an FOIA denial. Utah has a similar requirement under the state’s record laws, and it has provided an incentive for local government to comply with the law early and removed a barrier for requesters seeking redress.

Neither bill should have an impact on records the average American wouldn’t want public, like war plans, passwords and individual medical information. But if made law, these reforms would make it more difficult for federal agencies to withhold records like they have in the Angilau shooting.

The House of Representatives passed its bill at the urging of House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and the ranking Democrat on the committee. Utah Rep. Rob Bishop was a co-sponsor. The Senate version has sponsors from both parties, too.

Conditions appear optimal for reform, and for Utah‘s congressional delegation. They can lead both parties in both chambers in spreading more sunshine on the federal government.

The Society of Professional Journalists is dedicated to the perpetuation of a free press as the cornerstone of our nation and our liberty. The Utah Headliners Chapter represents journalists across the state. Learn more at www.spj.org.

 

Utah SPJ’s annual journalism contest is OPEN!

The Utah SPJ Headliners’ annual contest is OPEN, meaning it’s time for you to get a little recognition for all of your hard work in 2015. The contest runs March 15 to April 15.

Whether you work in newspapers, television, radio or online, this is the biggest local journalism contest in the state for reporters, photographers, editors, producers and students. Show off your best journalism from 2015, and join us at our annual banquet in June to be recognized for all you’ve accomplished.

Review our contest categories, create an account and start entering today at contest.utahspj.com. This includes nominations for Utah SPJ Honors as well as our Sunshine and Black Hole awards. Remember, honors nominations are free!

Contest entries are $10 for SPJ members and $15 for non-members. To join SPJ and the Utah Headliners chapter, go to SPJ.org.

Good luck!

Winners announced in 2015 Headliners contest

The Utah Headliners are pleased to announce the winners of this year’s local journalism contest. This year’s competition proved especially strong, with 854 entries coming in from media outlets on all platforms.

Winners and finalists, along with the 2015 Honorees, were recognized Thursday night in Salt Lake City at a banquet at Frida Bistro.

Click HERE for a full list of winners.

Come party like a journalist

Please mark your calendars and join us Thursday, June 18, at 6 p.m. to celebrate the best of Utah journalism. 

The festivities at Frida Bistro, 545 W. 700 South, in Salt Lake City, will begin with a cocktail hour featuring margaritas, beer, wine, soft drinks, appetizers and an opportunity to mingle with journalists from across the state. A buffet of Frida Bistro’s sophisticated Mexican cuisine will be served at 7 p.m. followed by a presentation of the awards from the Utah Headliners contest, including this year’s Utah SPJ Honors. We are pleased to welcome the event’s emcee, Utah cinema “troll” and news veteran Darren Ewing.

Banquet tickets include the refreshments at the cocktail hour and dinner. Tickets are $25 for SPJ members and $35 for non-members. Tables of eight are available for purchase at the members rate. (To purchase tickets click here.)

Board Meeting Minutes – Oct. 16, 2014

SPJ – Utah Headliners
10-16-14 Board Meeting Minutes
Location: Jim Fisher Residence

Attendance:
Nate Carlisle, McKenzie Romero, Jim  Fisher, Emma Penrod, Eric Peterson, Sheryl Worsley, Joel Campbell, Tiffany Frandsen (UVU Student)

Meeting was called to order at 6:40pm
1. Approval of the minutes: Nate Carlisle made a motion to approve the minutes of the Sept. 27, 2014 Board Meeting. Sheryl Worsley 2nd.. unanimous approval

2. Finances Update. Tom is excused for illness. McKenzie summarized finance report update.
Check was cut for Ben Winslow for website reimbursement.
Seeking more affordable website hosting options.

3. Court Pool Update.. Sheryl Worsley provided report.
– New FTP site established for sharing court video pool – Chad Curtis, BYU-TV created and sent out the login and registration info to media members.
– Seeking legal counsel from Jeff Hunt and David Reymann on the issue of who should be able to participate in the established court pool.
* It’s our understanding that the court feels only established, registered media should be allowed to participate in pool.
* SPJ wants to protect freedom of the press and does not want to go down the road of the court deciding who is or isn’t a member of the media.
– Court Pool Members meet with legal advisors Tuesday 10/21 at 2PM at KSL.

4. Forest Service Letter Update presented by Nate Carlisle. The letter calls for a permitting process for commercial photographers/videographers that that will not impact journalists, Our concern is that the parks will want to impose fees on journalists covering stories in the parks
Nate summarized the message of the letter and passed it around.
Public Comment runs thru November..
Jim Fisher made a motion to approve the letter for signature and submit. Sheryl Worsley 2nd the motion. Passed unanimously.

5. Sponsorship of Visiting Foreign Reporter – Josh Smith, reporting for Stars & Stripes currently. Seasoned war/conflict correspondent.
12/1 – SUU Presentation
12/2 – SLC Presentation
Honorarium – SPJ should consider providing $250 (Honorarium was approved)
Free Event – no charge
Possible locations…SLC Library, KSL
Sheryl Worsley moved to sponsor Josh Smith’s presentation. Jim Fisher 2nd the motion. Passed unanimously.
* Outreach to college campuses… Emma is developing updated contact lists at Universities.

6. SPJ Utah Headliners Survey presented by Nate Carlisle
– Bottom line.. not many journalists know who we are and what we do and when we do it. A third of the respondents didn’t know we held an annual banquet. 94 Respondents. Nate summarized the survey results and provided digital and hard copies to everyone present. Most respondents were professional journalists who are interested in instructional seminars/programs.
Nate recommends everyone reviews the survey and sends feedback to board.
Establishing a task force to review/decipher survey results: Nate Carlisle, Emma Penrod & Jim Fisher with McKenzie Romero serving as an observer to the task force.

7. Blogger Training Session..presented by Eric Peterson.
Planning.. we need to secure location.. at the BYU Salt Lake Center. Joel says we have a reservation for 11/15. Time: 10am to 2pm – 3 x 50 minute sessions with lunch provided by SPJ Utah Headliners.
Alternate location: SLCC is a possibility.
Cost: We’d like to keep it under $150.
Type of classroom necessary – non-computer equipped is fine.
Estimating 15-20 participants.
Rosemary Cundiff, Utah Ombudsman is planning to attend.
Presenters:
Eric Peterson (introduction)
Grama/FOIA – Rosemary Cundiff
Research – Nate Carlisle
Ethics & Legal – Jim Fisher and Joel Campbell
Seminar will be open to all…Nate Carlisle will send out alerts/invite to media outlets.

8. Additional/Misc. Business…
– McKenzie will distribute the latest information provided by Regional.

Next Board Meeting: Thursday November 20th at 6:30PM at Salt Lake Tribune. McKenzie will alert members of exact location.

Jim Fisher moved to adjourn, Nate 2nd motion.
Meeting adjourned at 7:42

Board Meeting Minutes — Sept. 27, 2014

SPJ Board Meeting 9/27/14

In attendance:

George Severson, Sheryl  Worsley, Tom Haraldsen, Jim Fisher, Nate Carlisle, McKenzie Romero, Linda Petersen, Connie Coyne, Eric Peterson

1. Motion to approve the minutes of the last two meetings was made by Sheryl and seconded by Jim

All aye

2. Membership update – McKenzie

Our number of memberships is currently hovering in the 50s. However, there is growth in prospective members with students at UVU working to get a chapter going. Utah State has also expressed interest in building up its chapter again. Their charter is still valid.

3. Finances: Tom

Current balance is $6196.34. Tom said we are in much better financial shape than we were last year.

We need to cut a check of $26 to Ben Winslow for domain names.

4. EIJ:  McKenzie & Sheryl gave a report on the national convention

A motion to change the name from The Society of Professional Journalists to The Society for Professional Journalism died. Sheryl expects to see it again as the motion’s author Michael Koretsky is passionate about it.

A new national code of ethics was approved. Sheryl said there are just minor changes. (copy attached). Sheryl voted for it. The new version is online at spj.org.

[Sheryl was a write-in regional 3 director candidate for RTDNA. She has accepted the position.]

5. Video Pool: Sheryl

Eric Johnson, a family law attorney, has been pushing for him and his associate Brian Godfrey to be allowed be part (and sometimes representative) of the media pool which shares video feed of court proceedings. The court has responded to his requests by closing family law cases to the pool. Godfrey, while not formally a journalist, was able to get a judge in the Uintah Basin to allow him to be designated as “pool” in a particular case which ended up being cancelled.

Court officials told Godfrey he needed camera equipment. He contacted KSL to ask them what equipment they used.

This has produced an unusual situation which court officials are at a loss to handle. There was some discussion on whether SPJ could come up with some guidelines. However, board members were reluctant of being put in the position of defining who is or isn’t a journalist, and were concerned that could make the chapter liable if those guidelines were questioned.

After much discussion, the board came to a consensus that instead of producing such guidelines, it would be best if Johnson and Godfrey address their issues with the courts and that SPJ should address the closing of family law hearings by the courts separately.

McKenzie made the motion to table the topic until after the media pool committee meets on Sept. 30. Sheryl seconded the motion.

6. Survey – Nate

Nate has prepared a survey to go out to all journalists in the state.  It asks for demographic info. and seeks feedback on how SPJ could help them.

Sheryl suggests adding “manager” to the occupation category. Nate will also add “freelance.” George suggested asking what topics they would like to see SPJ address but Nate was concerned about the survey being too long.

The survey will go out Oct. 1 with a deadline of Oct. 14. Nate will handle publicity. The survey will be sent to all those on SPJ’s mailing list, along with UPA, all news outlets, universities, broadcasters

Nate will report on the results at the next board meeting.

(Note: Nate later realized he had a scheduling conflict so the surveys were issued Sept. 30 and remained open through Oct. 13.)

7. Bylaws update – Connie

Connie presented board members with copies of a draft of updated bylaws. She suggests making as few changes as possible  and just updating the bylaws instead.

Some of the changes she’s proposing are

– a mechanism to add board members

– being able to nominate officers from the floor during a meeting for the election

– that board members can only miss two board meeting in a year without the approval of the president

-that board votes must carry by a majority of 50% +1.

8. Blogger training: Eric

Eric has put out feelers out with Utah Political Capital (3-4 likely to attend) Utah Politico Hub  (8-10 likely to attend). Both groups are interested. Most people we are targeting are along the Wasatch Front. The suggestion was made to film it and to also make it a webinar so we can send it out and post it on our website.

Some suggested topics that were discussed:

-doing things on the cheap

-how to get on media lists

– contact info. for PIOs

– Xchange

– legal liability (ethics)

– FOI, resources (tips, appeals); how to file a GRAMA request

We tentatively planned it to be:

Nov. 15, three 50-minute sessions over lunch (SPJ will provide food), 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., BYU SL.

Eric will reach out to Libertas, other outlets.

9. Nate and Trent Nelson want to put on a photo & video workshop for professionals and aspiring professionals in the spring, possibly in March.

We discussed taking boot camp on the road to Cedar City. SUU has volunteered some cash if we do. No date was set.

Sheryl reported that RFCP is putting on an IFOIA webinar  in January. She suggested that we could record it and send it out to our membership.

In the interest of time, McKenzie suggested that everyone who had a program suggestion draft a program proposal and send it out to the board.

Nate suggested that SPJ needs to write a letter against Forest Service charging fees for taking pics in the wilderness. He will write it.

Tom was contacted by our new regional director Tom Johnson from New Mexico. He would like to get the regional director monies Headliners has been holding since Don Meyers resigned.

He wants FOI to be a big issue.

He is going to be out of the country for several months and needs an assistant R.D., Tom H. agreed to do it.

Our next board meeting will be Thursday, Oct. 16 at 6:30 at Jim’s house, 331 Argyle Court, SLC.

The meeting was adjourned.