Panel OKs bill weakening public access to government records

Published February 9, 2009 5:09 pm

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A bill chipping away at public access to government records advanced to the House floor Monday -- despite strong opposition from the Utah Media Coalition.

HB122 -- sponsored by Rep. Douglas Aagard, R-Kaysville, at the request of the Attorney General's Office -- would remove avenues of appeal for records associated with law-enforcement proceedings, government audits and personnel matters.

It also would allow records associated with anticipated litigation -- lawsuits expected to come but not yet filed -- to be classified as protected, without any chance for the public or the media to appeal.

Attorney Jeff Hunt, representing the Utah Media Coalition, spoke against the measure, urging lawmakers to keep intact the current Government Records Access and Management Act. He called it the state's sunshine law and the window through which the public can view government actions.

In its present form, HB122 would gut the public's ability to argue on behalf of release of a government record, Hunt said.

But the committee voted 7-3 along party lines to advance the bill, with Democrats David Litvack of Salt Lake City, Trisha Beck of Sandy and Larry Wiley of West Valley City voting against it.

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