Utah Gay Rights, The Government Records Access and Management Act & Gov. Herbert's Donors 

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ay Rights Now (Later)
An agreement among legislative leaders to send every gay rights bill to interim study has irritated equality activists, who feel that LDS Church support of nondiscrimintation ordinances in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County gave them momentum going into this session. But had Democratic legislators pushed the same protections at the state level, the end result would probably have been the Legislature overturning the existing ordinances. Because of that ire, the Utah Pride Center plans a Feb. 11 forum at the U to discuss the current and future state of the gay rights movement. It is frustrating to see real change delayed, but if the delays fracture the gay community, then the conservatives win.

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For the People
The Government Records Access and Management Act is supposed to keep government records open to the public, but in recent years has become a tool of suppression by too many agencies. Fees are charged for “office tasks,” and many agencies take the entire 10 days to fulfill a request, even if there isn’t a record. Rep. Chris Herrod, R-Provo, is trying to swing the GRAMA law back to the people. His House Bill 278 would require agencies to provide electronic records, if requested. Plus, he would only give agencies five days to tell a petitioner if they don’t have a requested record, and the agency would have to tell the petitioner where they might find it. Because the changes seem to help the public, they’re likely to face opposition from those government officials who view GRAMA, like the public in general, as an inconvenience.

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Coal Cash
Gov. Gary Herbert’s campaign cashed a $10,000 donation from Alton Coal Company in September 2009, on the same day Herbert met with Alton executives about a proposed strip mine in Kane County. One month later, the strip mine was given approval by the state regulators who said, in a memo, that the expedited review—they had another three months to finish—was done at Herbert’s urging. In news stories, Herbert insisted that he only told regulators to decide quickly, and the donation was simply a coincidence. Despite his protestations, the fact remains that Herbert took money from a company to which he gave favorable treatment. That’s not wrong in the legal sense—nor would it be under proposed campaign finance reforms— but whether it’s wrong in the ethical sense is now in the hands of voters.

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Josh Loftin

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