You go, Utah Public Records Working Group. You go!

Today’s update from Utah (thanks, Brooke!) is full of all kinds of news, not the least of which is training and an ombuds…

A lot of ideas are still in flux, but one has gained consensus: More education would help requesters, responders and government officials alike understand how Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act works.

Two different subcommittees of the GRAMA Working Group are recommending that lawmakers require record officers and other employees who handle requests to go through an annual certification program about the law’s provisions.

That training, said Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake, would ensure legislators “have information about how GRAMA, as it currently exists, works.”

Likewise, it might reassure records officers and others who routinely handle requests that they are making the right decisions, group members said.

There also needs to be a better way to educate the public about what records are available, what limitations there is on information and how to access records, said Mark Johnson, director of management services for Ogden and a working group member.

The GRAMA Working Group, appointed by legislative leadership, is reviewing ways to improve the state’s open records law following a public uproar over now-repealed HB 477.

The Darkness is Strong With Them, Young Jedi…

Wow. Just wow.

After being hammered by nearly two weeks of bad press and complaints from angry constituents, Gov. Gary Herberton Monday his intention to call a special session for Friday to quickly repeal a controversial change to Utah’s open records law.

But Senate President Michael Waddoups said Monday evening that the Senate would not go along, potentially derailing the repeal, which House Republicans had already endorsed earlier in the day.

Waddoups said he hadn’t talked to a single Republican senator who supported immediate repeal of HB477, which made a series of changes to Utah’s open-records law.

“I’m guessing [the governor will] have to get a Democrat to sponsor the [repeal] bill in the Senate,” Waddoups said. Democrats hold only seven of the 29 Senate seats, where 15 votes are required to pass any bill.

 

Utah’s New FOI Law Insult to Former Soviet Republics

Way to go, Utah! HB477 actually takes you off the ranks of US FOI law, and squarely into Eastern Europe…wait. No. They have better laws.

Just out of curiosity, David has been comparing Utah’s new law (as of July 1) with other countries (great site for that: http://right2info.org/laws).

Utah will be more secretive than Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, and Albania, a former Communist regime. The Cold War is long over, but it looks like the former Commies won. Here’s a summary:

Kyrgyzstan

1. Presumption of openness: “The purposes of this Law are providing the realization and defense the right of access to information held by state bodies and local self-government bodies, and achieving the maximum informational openness…” Denials must be accompanied with written “concrete link” to the legislation allowing the denial.

1. Access to electronic records: No exemption for text messages or other electronic records. “There shall be provided free of charge familiarization and free of charge electronic copying of the documents and materials containing in the centralized automatized informational system of the official information.”

2. Copy fees: Preparation is “free of charge”. First five pages of copies free – then actual cost of copying allowed to be charged.

Albania

1. Presumption of openness: “If the requested information on a official  document is restricted by another law, the public authority shall provide the requested with a written declaration expressing the reasons of such refusal and/or basic rules on which the requested can get such information.”

2. Electronic records: Doesn’t explicitly say they are secret.

Assumption is electronic records would be public.

3. Copy fees: “Fees shall not exceed the direct costs incurred for the supply of the data” (direct materials). Data shall be provided free of charge.