Friday, March 11, 2011

Utah HB477 and Government Transparency

The Utah legislature passed, and Gov. Herbert signed, HB477 which is an attempt to destroy government transparency.  It is a bill that excludes cell phones and emails from GRAMA laws, imposes extremely high fees for information requests, and requires proof by preponderance of the evidence of wrongdoing before granting requests for communications that are suspected of being illegal.

It is an absolute assault on good governance and the proposition that government is for the people, of the people, and by the people.  The public response is universal outcry, but the legislators and governor don't care because there is basically no threat that they will be voted out of office in Utah's one-party system.  So they can pass laws which hide what they do and say from the public and assault the very contract between the governing and the governed and know that no matter how upset people get, it won't translate to the ballot box.

Please read the excellent and surprisingly combative editorial by the Salt Lake Tribune, visit for information on the referendum process that is already under way to get the law repealed, and contact your state representatives and let them know how undemocratic this is.  Just when I start to get the bug to be more states' rights oriented something like this happens and I remember that I live in Utah.


Passionate Moderate Mormon said...

Good job, guys. I'm relatively new to blogging, but we seem to be on many of the same themes with surprising consistency over the past few weeks. (i.e. the nightmare that is the Utah legislative session). I linked you up on mine. Hope you don't mind.

Jacob S. said...

PMM, thanks for your comment and your blog, it does indeed look like we are feeling some of the same issues lately.

Also, it looks like we both have the absolute privilege of practicing in the area of natural resource law, so our similarities are running deep.

Jacob S. said...

Also, when I was in law school I did a semester clinic at the DOI office in the Bennett building, is that where you work?

Sal Gal said...

Who's to blame for HB477 and SB165 (which prevents e-signatures from being valid on ballots)? Look in the mirror. This is what happens when you give ANY party a 95% majority. They feel they can govern on a whim and that the public can't be trusted with the grown up job of governing. By their actions they have proven that will give us less transparency in government, Illegal closed door meetings, a state hand gun, and open season on feral cats. And to make it harder for citizens to correct these offenses through ballot initiatives and propositions, they make e-signatures invalid, and increase the required number of signatures from 65,000 to 97,000! Seems they feel that they know whats best for Utah and that the citizens should BUTT OUT.

Jacob S. said...

Sal, I couldn't agree more. You are absolutely right that not only are they given free reign by the voters to pass whatever destructive and ill-conceived bills they want, but they have added another layer of insulation by making the ballot process more difficult.

I hope when the next election comes around voters will be given a very comprehensive list of what their representatives have done from an organized Utah Democratic Party on the offensive, instead of the usual defeatism and malaise. I'm not expecting big wins, but some progress, no matter how incremental, would be welcome.