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News Blog

GRAMA, For The People?

by Josh Loftin
- Posted // 2010-02-10 -

Governing is hard, especially when it involves work.

Proposed changes to the Government Records Access and Management Act would make public records more environmentally-friendly, possibly less expensive, and force government agencies to be more responsive when they can't supply a record. All of which makes government officials cringe.

During a hearing for HB278 in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning, Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, said he decided to sponsor the GRAMA changes after being frustrated by his own GRAMA request last summer. He then saw a couple of other places to fix, especially the ability for a someone to receive documents electronically, if requested.

Much to everyone's surprise, the response from those who work in government was to hem and haw about the changes creating more work. Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake City, who also works for Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder, said that it would become "very time consuming" if they had to respond to GRAMA requests in five days instead of the currently alloted 10 days. She also said it would be more difficult if those records were done electronically.

"I'm not sure about the problem you're trying to solve," she said.

Also testifying to the increased burden of the bill were representatives of the Utah Association of Counties and Utah Association of Special Service Districts. All of them seemed to interpret the bill as pushing the deadline for almost all GRAMA requests to five days.

However, the deadline does not really change, except to require government agencies to respond in five days if they are denying the request. At least, that seems to be how the bill reads.

In the end, the committee voted to "move to the next item," which is usually the polite way of killing a bill. However, in this case, Herrod said he would work on the language to address the concerns about, well, serving the public in a timely fashion.

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