From the Government Records and Management Act:
(1) In enacting this act, the Legislature recognizes two constitutional rights:
(a) the public's right of access to information concerning the conduct of the public's business; and
(b) the right of privacy in relation to personal data gathered by governmental entities.
(2) The Legislature also recognizes a public policy interest in allowing a government to restrict access to certain records, as specified in this chapter, for the public good.
To listen to the Legislative leaders and the Governor, this is what they want from revising GRAMA.
Ironically, this is language found in the Act passed 20 years ago that the Legislature stripped with HB477.
I’m not surprised that they are saying one thing and doing another. After all, that’s all they’ve done this month.
They say that HB477 was rushed through the process so that it could be discussed. In reality, discussion works better if you take the time to deliberate.
HB477 was released to the pubilc on the afternoon of March 1. Supporters of the bill had known it was coming for a minimum of a couple of weeks. Yet at the first public hearing on March 2, they could not find a single non-legislator to speak in favor of the bill. But many people spoke in opposition to the bill. The full house voted on March 3 to pass the bill. March 4 brought us another public hearing, this time in the Senate. Again, no supporters came from the general public. Opponents, however, did speak. It passed the Senate later that day, and they adjourned for the weekend.
And,that’s when the public pressure started. That brought about the “comprimise” that I like to call “Cut first, measure second.”
And the public pressure has continued.
Which is what brought all of us here today.
When asked if today’s Special Session to repeal HB477 was a sign that the Legislature was in the wrong, Becky Lockhart said “we didn’t break any rules.”
Madam Speaker, you didn’t need to break any rules, because the rules are broken.
I’m nominating Speaker Lockhart for every Open Government award I can find. I’m doing this because she has raised public awareness of just how closed Utah’s Legislature really is.
After all, this is the body that earlier this week held a closed-door meeting to discuss open government.
The Senate doesn’t want to repeal the bill until they have something to replace it with.
However, they have yet to make a legitimate claim that GRAMA needs to be fixed.
They say GRAMA is costing taxpayers. They have yet to give us a dollar amount that GRAMA costs, however. They also ignore the fact that section 203 of GRAMA allows the charging of fees to recover a good amount of the costs. Let me re-phrase that. It doesn’t just allow for the charging, it makes charging fees the default position for the Government.
They say that HB477 was needed to prevent fishing expeditions from the media. However, the fishing expeditions they cite came from the public, not the media.
Plus, if they would stop restocking the pond, we’d stop fishing.
They claim that HB477 was needed to protect their privacy. Well, you’re the one who chose Public Office. You registered as a candidate. YOU went through the physical, emotional, and financial costs of running a campaign.
When you ran for the Utah Senate, you accepted the laws surrounding civil service.
If there are no skeletons in your hot tub, state legislator is not a job title you should hold.
That being said, there is an easy way to keep Private matters Private: Do the public’s business with you public cell phones and public email. Do your private business with your private cell phone and private email!
Last night, a friend asked me why we needed GRAMA in the first place. The best answer I have comes from LDS Scripture where it says:
“We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, ... they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.” (D&C 121:39)
We need the ability to see what the government is doing to prevent them from running us over. Both elected officials and government employees. They are our employees. We are their bosses. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small government like the one that runs the town of Scipio or big government like the Utah Legislature. It doesn’t matter if it’s a liberal government like Salt Lake City, or a conservative one like Provo.
A Republic only works if the citizens can trust their government. Citizens can only have the trust of their Government if that government runs as open as possible.
Having ⅔ of the Legislature regularly meet behind cosed doors is not having an open government. Rushing bills from public release to ready for signing is not open government.
Hiding your text messages is not open government. The people should know what you are doing. We, The people are your employers. If you don’t like that fact, get another job.
The Legislature thinks that repealing HB477 will get the public off their backs. And, admittedly, we will back off a little. However we’re not going away. We’re going to pay attention to the working group. We’re going to pay attention to whatever new bill surfaces.
And, come election season, we’ll remember your actions in March of 2011. We’ll remind our neighbors. And we’ll help solve your privacy concerns by returning you to the private sector.