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GRAMA: Utah open records bill signed into law

Published March 27, 2012 7:32 am

Open records • The Legislature's approach was far different in wake of last year's protests.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One of last year's hottest political battles — altering Utah's open records law, the Government Records Access and Management Act — reached a final, quiet end.

Gov. Gary Herbert announced Monday that three days earlier he signed into law SB177, a non-controversial tweaking of GRAMA.

That bill grew out of a fierce battle the previous year on HB477, which largely gutted GRAMA. It was passed shortly after it was unveiled with limited review and public comment — which led to huge public protests and angry editorials.

Under pressure, the Legislature took the unusual step to repeal HB477, and set up a working group to review any needed changes during the year. SB177 was the result, and was so non-controversial that no public witness testified on it in a House committee hearing. No one voted against it in the House or Senate.

The bill includes language to make clear that in balancing tests on whether a record should be disclosed or kept private, "a tie goes to disclosure," said Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, sponsor of the bill.

It also orders creation of online training for public-records officers statewide and an ombudsman to help the public file GRAMA requests. It also clarifies that public records include those communications by public officials that are made as part of their official duties or while doing public business.

The governor has now signed 409 of the 449 bills and concurrent resolutions passed by the Legislature, and has vetoed one — on sex education in schools. Wednesday is the final day for Herbert to decide whether to sign bills, veto them or allow them to become law without his signature.