The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is urging Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert to veto legislation that if enacted would “only invite greater government secrecy and back-room dealings” and leave Utah as the only state to take such draconian provisions against openness.
In a letter sent to Gov. Herbert today, Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish called on the governor to “side with the people of Utah and veto this bill.”
The Reporters Committee letter joins a groundswell of popular movement against HB477 since the bill was passed by the House March 3, less than a day after it was heard in committee, and passed by the Senate the next day. The bill would make fundamental changes to the state’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.
“The monumental devolution House Bill 477 represents for government transparency is without precedent,” Dalglish wrote. “To categorically exempt entire platforms of communication (i.e., text messages and other forms of electronic communications) demonstrates a newfound callousness and antagonism toward transparency that will only invite greater government secrecy and back-room dealings.”
Noting that many legislative bodies and government agencies have looked at the rise of new communications technologies as opportunities to engage the public and “ensure that citizens were not shut out from accessing such records,” Dalglish chided Utah’s HB477 as taking the opposite approach.
Dalglish also pointed out access problems in the bill’s new fee structure that would allow state agencies to recoup “overhead costs” while dropping language that encouraged appropriate fee waivers in the public interest.
The bill, Dalglish continued, “is simply bad for the people of Utah and those who work to keep citizens informed about government.”
The full text of the letter is available on the Reporters Committee website .
Lucy A. Dalglish
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press