Swift and secretive changes to Utah's open-records law last year triggered huge protests, angry editorials and the Legislature's repeal of the new statute under pressure. Contrast that backlash with a hearing Wednesday about a new rewrite that failed to bring even one public witness and the measure is now one vote away from final passage.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said that's because his SB177 represents consensus recommendations from a working group that included the public, media and lawmakers about tweaks needed to the Government Records Access and Management Act.
"A year ago this was probably the most contentious, divisive issue that many of us have faced," Bramble told the House Government Operations Committee. He said the working group crafted a way "to re-establish trust with the public that we do support open government." The committee approved the bill unanimously, and sent it to the full House.
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," Bramble said.
It would create online training for public-records officers statewide and an ombudsman to help the public file GRAMA requests. It also could clarify that public records include those communications by public officials made as part of their official duties or while doing public business.
"Bringing everyone to the table [to discuss the issue]," aid Rep. Craig Frank, R-Pleasant Grove, "is always a great idea."