Local lawmakers, political leaders have mixed feelings about HB477

Utah Governor Gary Herbert has had it. After almost two weeks of bad press and complaints from angry constituents, Gov. Herbert has called for a special session of the Utah Legislature on Friday to repeal House Bill 477, a controversial bill which restricts Utah’s open records law. The Utah Senate is balking but the House has endorsed the special session. Meanwhile, Cache County’s Republican Party chairman, David James, reminds the lawmakers that the public is dealing with public documents. “For the legislature to come in and say, ‘we’re going to pass laws that are going to put walls around us and not going to let you see our information,’ is disconnected from the direction that the public is going,” James says. “My encouragement to the legislature is to get in there, figure out a way to make public records as easy and accessible as possible. “If we have years of paper documents, scan them in and make them available on the Internet.” James, who is stepping down from his job next month, says if legislators really want to keep something private they can aways talk, “face to face.” Cache County’s newest state lawmaker says the legislature should have spent more time putting together HB 477. But on KVNU’s Crosstalk show Tuesday, State Representative David Butterfield, R-District 4, said the bill itself wasn’t wrong. He said few people would disagree that something put together 20 years ago should have updates and reviews from time to time and, in his case, his mode of communication has changed. “Text messaging and instant messaging and some of these things, should we review them?” Butterfield asked. “Is the way the law is being interpreted, is that consistent with the spirit of the law? Should there be some clarification? “For me, 477 essentially was more about what is a government record than it is about restricting government records.” Butterfield says he did not feel it is necessary to have a special session on Friday to repeal HB477 because a working group had just been appointed to review the legislation. Cache County Executive Lynn Lemon admits that his office has not been bombarded with requests for information through GRAMA, the Government Records Access and Management Act. He says the controversial bill could be repealed if Gov. Herbet has his way. Lemon says he has mixed emotions on the controversial bill because he does not want public information to be kept from the public but he also wants people to be able to communicate with their representatives without everything they say becoming public. “The best way for me to contact the legislature during the legislative session is to send them an email,” Lemon explains. “I’m not afraid and in fact anything in those emails I realize are subject to the public and I don’t have any problem with that. “I just don’t want the individual tax payer or the individual citizen to stop communicating with their representative because they’re afraid that everything that they say may be subject to GRAMA.” Lemon says he does feel House Bill 477 was passed too quickly but he can partially understand why legislators did it because of all the emails they got on the immigration bills.

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