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:


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.


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.


From the Ashes in Utah Comes Hope and Resilience…

The people of Utah are fighting back.

A group of citizens has filed an application seeking to have HB477, a controversial bill restricting access to many government records, go to a referendum.

The group, not affiliated with any formal organization, submitted the paperwork to the lieutenant governor’s office Thursday, according to Janalee Tobias, a longtime gun-rights and open-space advocate.

Such an application can be filed no later than five days after the end of the legislative session. But Tobias said the group was also trying to act before Gov. Gary Herbert signed SB165, which would ban electronic petition signatures.

Tobias said her group was not partisan and included a Democrat with whom she disagreed on most other issues.

“He hates guns, I love guns, but we’re both here together on this issue,” she said.


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Watch interview with Governor Darkness of Utah

I laughed out loud, I cried, I sputtered and I tried to keep up with the circular logic of a man desperately trying to defend discussion and debate of access issues after he signs a dreadful piece of legislation that featured none of the above. It’s truly painful.

There is a cost to access? Really? Who knew? You know, democracy is messy, expensive and a real investment on the part of a government in letting its, ya know, citizens, engage in the process.

Here’s the interview. It’s a parallel universe.

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The Governor of Utah: Today’s Worst Person in FOI World

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01:  Utah Governor Gary...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

So, the governor who expressed concern with the bill one day signs it the next. Good people of Utah, it’s time to regroup and renew the fight. The battle has just begun! Your elected representatives have abandoned you, lied to you, ignored you and now DARE you to make the next move.

About 200 people rallied at the state Capitol midday Tuesday to demand the governor veto HB477, a bill that shields more government records from public disclosure. But Gov. Gary Herbert wasn’t swayed.

He announced after 8 p.m. that he had signed the bill into law, saying that with its delayed effective date, there will be plenty of time for a healthy public discussion about how best to ensure the public’s right to know what its government is up to without violating privacy rights.

“This bill provides a way to find the right balance between the public’s right to know and the personal privacy of both constituents and policymakers, while protecting taxpayer dollars,” Herbert said in a prepared statement. “Our goal is open and transparent government.”

“With HB477 now amended [to take effect July 1], the delayed implementation date allows us to have an open public process with robust, deliberate engagement by the public, the media and lawmakers.”

The governor’s news release came just a few hours after some 200 people held a demonstration in the Capitol. Almost all the speakers were from good-government groups — not the news media.

They chanted, “Veto! Veto!” and held signs reading, “Only a cockroach is afraid of light,” “Sunshine, not secrecy” and “Hiding something?”


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Let’s Call It A Sunlight Party…


This is beyond awesome....


Does this feel as good to you as it does to me????

Bob Aagard said he had never before organized a political rally. But he was so upset about a bill that the Legislature passed quickly last week to shield more records from public disclosure that he arranged one for Tuesday at the Capitol Rotunda.

“Most of the opposition that I saw coming to HB477 was from the news media, but I knew a lot of other people opposed it, too,” he said. “It affects everyone. I wanted to show that.”

So the part-time events service worker used social media to call for the rally, and about 200 people came. Almost all of the speakers were from good-government groups — not the news media.

They chanted “veto, veto,” urging Gov. Gary Herbert to veto the bill, and held signs such as “Hiding something?” “Only a cockroach is afraid of light,” and “Sunshine, not secrecy.”

Kim Burningham, chairman of Utahns for Ethical Government, said that the Legislature recalling the bill Monday to extend its effective date to July 1 does not fix the measure. Lawmakers have said that will provide time to negotiate any needed fixes that then could be passed in a special legislative session in June.

“We do not need a pacifier on HB477. We need a veto,” Burningham, a former legislator, said to cheers. “This bill is a severe restriction on the public’s right to know and reduces the concept of freedom of information to a mere shell of its former self.”


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More from the Utahcalypse

A nice TV story detailing just a bit of what won’t be known by Utahns if H.B. 477 passes….






Map of USA with Utah highlighted

Image via Wikipedia

LOTS of links here to help you get up to speed on the Utahpocalypse:

Here is the text of the Utahpocalypse.

Here is the old, quite good Utah FOI law. Ch. 63, Section 2.

News here, and here, and commentary here, here, here, with lots more to come.

Sound the alarms, spread the word, get your friends in Utah on the horn with their elected representatives. This is as bad as it gets.

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