Opponents of HB 477, a bill to give the Legislature extra privacy and make government-records requests more expensive and limited, are asking citizens to join them in what the second rally to oppose the bill Thursday.
Today's rally--planned in only 48 hours--attracted about 150 to the Capitol Rotunda today.
Bob Aagard, a self-described political junky, organized today's rally. He was happy with the turnout, said social media was crucial to spreading word of the rally. He said the Legislature's hubris in passing HB 477 will backfire: "I think the Utah Legislature opened the flood gates and got people thinking about open government."
He said some people may have heard that the bill was "recalled" and falsely concluded that meant it was defeated, but that's not so. "It's very important everyone stay with this," he said."The only way for the people to press the government is for the government to be open."
For all our coverage of HB 477,
go to CityWeekly.net/HB477
The bill has gathered opponents from across the political spectrum, from tea party members social conservatives to environmentalists gay rights advocates.Opposition to the bill was immediate, but the speed with which it passed shocked many as four days for a bill's passage is almost unheard of Utah's legislature.
The bill would exempt the Utah Legislature from GRAMA, the Government Records Acess and Management Act, as well as remove e-mails and text messages from available public records that the public can request, even when the messages come from state-provided computers or cell phones. HB 477 would also give government bodies discretion to charge exorbitant prices for searching and review of requested documents.
Support for the bill has dropped dramatically among lawmakers. After passing both the House and Senate last week only four days after its contents were released, HB 477 had several former-supporters publicly defect and call for revisions. When the bill was recalled Monday--in response to public protest--but passed again later that day with only the implementation date being changed, 17 fewer house members voted in favor of it than just four days previous when they voted on it the first time.
Several Democrats opposed to the bill spoke at Monday's rally, including Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake. When asked what opponents of HB 477 should do to defeat the bill, Briscoe said contact their legislators and the governor. But he had one more tip: "Tell Republicans to call their legislators and ask, 'Why the hell did you vote for this?"
Opponents are hoping a rally Thursday rally will attract even more opponents to the bill. That will be the legislature's last day. The Legislature has no further actions to take on HB 477, both chambers having approved the revised implementation date (now July 1, whereas before implementation would have been immediate). Gov. Gary Herbert can now veto the bill, sign it or allow 30 days to pass in which case the bill would become law without his signature.
Shine a Light on Government Rally
6 p.m., Thursday March 8
North Fountain, Capitol Hill, Salt Lake City
For more information or confirm your attendance, click here.