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Bill slackens state public records restrictions



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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Legislature passed a bill Thursday that would encourage greater government transparency by relaxing some of the state’s records laws.

SB157, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, would make records of significant complaints against certain telemarketing businesses filed with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection open to the public.

The bill would also ease the process of appealing a denial of records requests by a political subdivision, such as a school board, city, town or county. It would allow a resident who is denied access by a local government entity to appeal to the State Records Committee.

Bramble has said that the bill rose out of concerns that surfaced with the investigation into former Utah Attorneys General John Swallow and Mark Shurtleff, who have been accused of personal entanglements with people tied to allegations of telemarketing fraud.

SB157's House sponsor, Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, said the bill would act as a tool to more easily “expose these bad actors” and warn the public.

The bill would provide a mechanism for the public to screen records of such businesses if at least 50 complaints about a business have been filed or if a consumer files a lawsuit seeking $3,500 or more in damages.

However, Rep. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, spoke against the bill Wednesday, saying he's concerned that it doesn’t follow the concept of “innocent until proven guilty.” He said he worries it would become a “tool to taint good actors” and that it might be better for the Division of Consumer Protections to create a list of businesses that have been proven bad actors.

The House voted 52-19 to pass the bill Wednesday; on Thursday, the Senate approved it unanimously. It now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his consideration. Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com

Katie McKellar

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