House committee wants more time for meeting-notice bill
By Donald W. Meyers
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Feb 19 2013 04:28PM
Lawmakers gave Rep. Kraig Powell more time Tuesday to tweak his bill requiring agencies to post their agendas further in advance of meetings.
Powell, R-Heber City, proposed in HB207 that government entities and agencies post meeting agendas at least 72 hours in advance, while allowing unforeseen items to be posted no sooner than 24 hours. He presented the bill before the House Political Subdivisions Committee, which voted to hold it until Powell worked out the language issues.
"There is enough consternation in the committee," Committee Chairman Curt Webb, R-Logan, said, predicting that Powell’s bill would not fare well on the House floor.
The Open and Public Meetings Act requires agendas be posted 24 hours in advance, except in the case of emergency meetings.
Powell said that there are public bodies that already post notices further in advance, giving people more time to prepare to discuss issues. He said if something came up after an agenda was posted, it could be amended to accommodate the unforeseen issues.
But it was defining "unforeseen" that raised Lincoln Shurtz’s concerns. Shurtz, lobbyist with the Utah League of Cities and Towns, said with no definition, cities and public agencies would find themselves open to lawsuits hinging on whether officials believed an item was truly unforeseen by anyone.
Shurtz said the result of Powell’s bill would be government bodies putting off action because they don’t want to violate the deadlines.
Powell, an attorney who has represented public agencies, said his counsel on whether something is unforeseen is "if in doubt, don’t put it on the agenda."
Committee members suggested watering the bill down to be more of a recommendation, and trust the public to weed out violators.
"If they keep [violating the notice requirements], it won’t be long before they are not elected officials anymore, said Rep. Spencer Cox, R-Fairview.