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Open Records

An up-to-date archive related to Utah's Government Records Access and Management Act

SB 177 (first substitute) Government Records Access and Management Act Amendments
Bill: SB-177

Threat level: Bright light - Good for right to know

Sponsor: Bramble, R-Provo

Link to the bill

The GRAMA Working Group -- was formed last year in the wake of public furor over the ill-fated HB 477, which was repealed before it ever took effect. While this group found some issues on which they could not reach consensus, SB 177 represents those issues where there was consensus. These issues include:

-- Intent language. This bill clears up an internal inconsistency in the existing statute to make it clear that records are presumed to be open unless there is a specific restriction spelled out in GRAMA. This "balance test" also brings the law in line with a Utah Supreme Court decision.

-- Ombudsman. The bill creates a state GRAMA ombudsman who would assist those seeking government records as well as governments releasing records. The working group found a large disparity in knowledge about GRAMA, and the ombudsman would be a resource for those who need it.

-- Private correspondence. SB 177 further defines what correspondence public officials must treat as a record. The language specifically spells out that such correspondence is not a record if the public official receiving or sending it is acting in a capacity not related to the public's business (i.e., personal emails or business correspondence unrelated to their public positions).

-- Litigation exception. The bill clarifies when a public record can be withheld from the public because its release could potentially hurt a public entity in its efforts to argue its case in court. Those records can be closed if they are prepared in anticipation of a lawsuit or other judicial proceeding.

SB 177 is both good legislation and a good example of what an open political process can produce. It earns a Bright Light from GRAMA WATCH for its benefits to open government.