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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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HB477: The plot thickens ...

Considering what Gov. Herbert should do about HB477, the D-News plays good cop:

- Gov. Herbert's welcome influence - Deseret News Editorial, 03.08.11

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Thank you Gov. Gary Herbert for reminding us that one of the great values of our legislative process is deliberation.

On Monday, Herbert urged legislators to recall HB477, a hastily passed bill that would significantly alter Utah's Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA) — the act that governs how the public gets access to government records....

... Herbert is creating for himself a legacy of listening carefully to the state-wide constituency that he represents, recognizing when there is dissonance over important issues and then bringing together stakeholders on the issue. He has been deft at facilitating open, accessible and transparent dialogue. In doing so, he is helping to create broad based solutions to what had sometimes looked like intractable problems. ...

- Herbert must veto HB477 - Ogden Standard-Examiner Editorial, 03.08.11

Gov. Gary Herbert must veto HB477. The bill, hastily passed by the Utah Legislature, eviscerates the public's right to a free and open government. Unless major open-government changes are made, the bill should not become law today, tomorrow or ever. ...

- Legislature: pushing out public - Stewart Thorpe, University Daily Chronicle, 03.08.11

Dear Utah voters, the Utah Legislature despises you—whether you identify as Republican, Democrat, Independent, or anything else—because you are part of the public. The Utah Legislature, with House Bill 477, has gutted the public's right to know how its tax dollars are used in general, and specifically what the Utah Legislature is up to. The Utah Legislature sees such things as unpleasant and an obnoxious formality to do away with. ...

- Secrecy bill delayed, not eliminated - Sean P. Means, Culture Vulture, Salt Lake Tribune

... Legislators are betting that the public's anger will subside, that they can demonize the media, and still get the secrecy they want. Today is a chance to prove them wrong.

Our editorial, posted to this blog late yesterday:

- Now, it’s up to you - Salt Lake Tribune Editorial, 03.08.11...

... HB477 may be aimed at the media. But the collateral damage to the public at large stands to be huge. Now is the time for the public to stand up for its own interests.

Capitol Hill rallies protesting HB477 are set for noon Tuesday and for 6 p.m. Thursday, the final day of the legislative session. Contact information for Gov. Herbert and members of the Legislature are available at www.utah.gov and le.utah.gov.

It is the people who will be harmed if this bill becomes law. It is the people who must speak up. Now.

Background:

- Legislature votes to delay open records law changes - Tribune, 03.08.11

To address concerns of Gov. Gary Herbert, lawmakers Monday recalled the controversial bill that they had passed quickly last week to shield more records from public disclosure and charge more for those that would still be available.

The Senate voted 23-6 to stop HB477 from going into effect immediately and delay its implementation until July 1. The House quickly followed suit, approving the effective date change by a vote of 42-29.

Herbert said he was "pleased" by the Legislature’s action Monday "and I’m encouraged they are committed to amending the bill in order to provide for a more thorough and deliberative process."

In his prepared statement, the governor added, "Good public policy demands good public participation. I reiterate my commitment to the principles of open and transparent government." ...

That article elicited my favorite comment so far, from SunshineLollypops:

Herbert said he was "pleased" by the Legislature’s action Monday "and I’m encouraged they are committed to amending the bill in order to provide for a more thorough and deliberative process."

Translation: "Thank God I didn’t have to make a decision."

Oh, but he will, my dear Sunshine, he will.



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