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Bill would require three day's notice of meetings, but no penalties for violations

Published February 27, 2013 4:12 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The House Political Subdivisions Committee unanimously approved a watered-down version of Rep. Kraig Powell's bill requiring meeting agendas be posted 72 hours in advance.

The committee voted Monday to send out HB207 after the Heber Republican altered his original provision that only "unforeseen" items could be added to the posted agenda up to 24 hours before the meeting. Now, any item can be added to the agenda up until the day before the meeting.

Also, the bill states that the state could not take action against a city council, school board or other public entity subject to the Open and Public Meetings Act for failing to comply with the 72-hour notice rule. The bodies' actions would still be subject to being overturned if they violate the current 24-hour deadline for posting meeting notices.

Instead, Powell said it would be up to the public's moral indignation to enforce the 72-hour rule.

"But there would be political pressure if [a public agency] did that for a couple meetings," Powell said. "The people would be asking, 'What are you hiding?'"

Powell made the changes after the Utah League of Cities and Towns objected to the original text of the bill. Lincoln Shurtz, the league's lobbyists, told lawmakers at the first committee meeting that since "foreseen" was not adequately defined, cities would be open to lawsuits for adding an item to the agenda that someone believed did not come up at the last minute.

Lynn Pace, a member of the league's board of directors and a Holladay City Councilman, said the ULCT appreciated Powell's willingness to amend the bill.

Powell said the bill's intent is to increase transparency. He said many cities already have agendas ready three or more days before a meeting.

The additional time, Powell said, allows people to become better informed about issues in their communities.

The bill is now awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives.