Be nice to your GRAMA • A year ago, articles and editorials about a sneaky, and largely uninformed, attack on Utah's open records law filled the front pages of this and other newspapers. This year, a thoughtful update of the same law, taking into account the concerns of government officials, the public and the media, is quietly moving through the process. Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, has taken the lead on SB177, a list of changes that will make the Government Records Access and Management Act more understandable and useful to government officials, reporters and members of the public. It reinforces the intent language that calls for the benefit of the doubt to go toward making the public's record public. It establishes training programs and a state open records ombudsman. It makes clear distinctions between records that are public and those that are by definition private. This is legislation by consensus and consultation, rather than confrontation. Good job.
Ripples of the lake • Everybody has an opinion about the Great Salt Lake, and some of those opinions, though accurate, aren't too positive: It stinks. It can add punch to a snowstorm. It's a dead sea that only tiny brine shrimp can live in. But many Utahns might have been surprised at the results of a new report that shows the lake is an economic booster, to the tune of $1.3 billion every year. And the brine shrimp industry, although significant, is only a small part of what the lake supports, bringing in $57 million. Industries other than brine shrimp, primarily mineral production, add $1.1 billion to the Utah economy. Recreation is valued at $136 million. The lake's value as wildlife and bird habitat is $100 million. About 7,700 jobs rely on the lake. It's probably time we gave the salty old puddle a bit more respect.
Circle the wagons • Even private landowners are not safe Legislature's love affair with oil and gas. A Senate committee has recommended a bill that would add oil and gas development to the list of uses for which Utah allows condemnation of lands. HB74, sponsored by Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, would allow private land to be taken by the state through eminent domain to aid mineral development by providing roads to well fields. Although it would require negotiations for purchasing the access before an agency or individual could file to take the land, it leaves the possibility open that a developer could take land that the owner did not want to sell. Now we fully understand Noel's priorities.