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Governor calls special session for repeal of HB477

Governor calls special session for repeal of HB477

By Paul Koepp | Posted - Mar. 21, 2011 at 5:36 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert has called the Legislature into a special session Friday to consider repealing HB477, the controversial bill restricting access to many government records.

Citing "a loss of public confidence," Herbert called Monday for the bill's repeal. Hours later, after a closed caucus meeting, House Republicans said they plan to repeal the bill as soon as the governor calls a special session.

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Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said Friday is too soon for a special session. He said he would have preferred to meet during a regular interim day in April or May, saying the cost of convening for just one day is $30,000.

"(The governor) talks about process. This is not process," Waddoups said. "There's no reason to rush this like that."

Legislators passed the wide-ranging changes to the state's Government Records Access and Management Act at the tail end of this year's regular session after just two days of public deliberation. HB477 largely exempts the Legislature and several forms of electronic communication from GRAMA, allows for increased fees for records requests and erases language favoring openness.

Herbert calls for repeal

In a statement, the governor said he considered a veto of HB477 for its "symbolic value," but decided against it because the bill had passed with "veto-proof margins."

Herbert said he would call the Legislature into special session "soon" to reconsider the wide-ranging changes to the state's Government Records Access and Management Act.

Legislators passed the changes at the tail end of this year's regular session after just two days of public deliberation. HB477 largely exempts the Legislature and several forms of electronic communication from GRAMA, allows for increased fees for records requests and erases language favoring openness.

"During the recent legislative session, the public hearing process for HB477 did not meet the standard of openness and public dialog such legislation warranted," Herbert said.

After public outcry, lawmakers changed the bill to delay its effective date until July 1. But protests have continued, along with a petition drive to send HB477 to a voter referendum.

House Republicans met in a closed caucus Monday and reached a consensus to repeal HB477, then replace with another version, according to Rep. Jeremy Peterson, R-Ogden.

Herbert said Monday a replacement for HB477 should align with three principles: the public's right to know, individual privacy and protecting taxpayers from the cost of "fishing expeditions."

Legislators have said they passed the bill to prevent correspondence with constituents from becoming public, although there were already provisions in the current GRAMA law to protect private information.

They have promised to convene a working group including members of the press and public to discuss further changes before the special session.

Bill easily passed Legislature

HB477 first passed the House by a 61-12 vote, with two members not voting, and the Senate 21-7, with one senator not voting. The Senate then passed the amended version postponing the effective date 23-6, and the House followed suit by a 42-29 vote, with four members not voting.

That House vote fell short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to override a veto, but Herbert said he had given legislators his word he would sign the amended bill if they changed the effective date, giving more time for discussion.

E-mail:pkoepp@ksl.com

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