Utah Government Rushes Through Anti-Transparency Law

Saturday, March 12, 2011
(graphic: RuinsofMorning.net)
Utah politicians have turned their state into the most secretive in the nation, according to critics of a new law that severely restricts public access to government records.
In a space of only one week, the state legislature and Governor Gary Herbert teamed up to quickly adopt HB 477, which will make it more difficult for citizens to review a variety of legislative and agency documents. The law allows the legislature to opt out of transparency requirements entirely, exempts police follow-up reports from disclosure and exempts the state auditor from open records rules.
Lawmakers will be able shield their voicemail, text and instant messages, and possibly even their emails, from the public.
“With one scribble of a pen, the governor made his state the most secretive in the nation, as well as more backward than most countries, including Mexico and Albania,” said David Cuillier, of the Utah Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “This will price citizens out of their government, encourage corruption and online sweetheart deals, and embolden those who would undermine democratic principles.”
Opponents staged last minute protests in an attempt to convince the governor to delay implementation of the bill, flooding him and lawmakers with emails. But Herbert decided to approve the legislation, with the promise to consider amendments to the new law.
-Noel Brinkerhoff


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