Sen. Hillyard defends restrictions to government records

The Utah House and Senate have passed a measure to prohibit release of public officials’ text messages, e-mails and other electronic communications, and significantly increase the fees to get public records. The current law uses the content of a record such as an e-mail or a document to determine whether it is public.State Senator Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, who is a lawyer, says e-mails have become like telephone calls and his staff can simply not handle the bulk and scope of the requests.”Obviously things that are public should be public,” Hillyard said on Thursday during a Utah Senate media availability event. “You have public hearings, we have all of that. “The fact that I may send an email to Senator Knudson and make some private, comic remark and when you read it it may not be quite so funny. That’s, I think, just like I get to call him on the phone and whisper something or say something and that’s my concern.” Dozens of media executives and advocacy groups across the country oppose House Bill 477 which now only awaits Governor Gary Herbert’s signature, or veto. Utah Media Coalition lawyer Jeff Hunt helped craft the original law. He says the changes would damage one of the best open record laws in the country.For those who oppose the changes proposed in HB477, an online petition has been started at

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and at

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. The Utah Senate has also established a site defending the bill at

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