Despite petitions, rallies, letters, phone calls, social media campaigns, media editorials and personal outreach asking him not to do it, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert Tuesday evening signed into law House Bill 477, which severely curtails government transparency. Joining the outrage over the signing was the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which had earlier written to the governor asking him to veto the bill.
“We are beyond astonished not only by the scope of this backward law, but also by the underhanded, secretive and arrogant way it was adopted,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish. “The citizens of Utah should be outraged and demand transparency and accountability from their elected officials.”
The bill makes fundamental changes to Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) allowing, among other things, text messages and other electronic communication, including correspondence, to be withheld from release. It was moved quickly through the state legislature — passed by the House less than a day after it left committee and by the Senate a day later — prompting opponents to argue that not enough time was allowed for debate. A statement from the governor noted that delayed enactment of the legislation, an amendment added just prior to the signing, will allow time for “robust, deliberate engagement.”
“If the legislation still needs debate, why did the governor sign it? Debate after enactment is disingenuous and pointless,” Dalglish added. “The Reporters Committee will continue to stand with the citizens of Utah who have mobilized against this effort to cast a shadow over government in the sunshine.”
Lucy A. Dalglish
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press