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Reach out to your legislators on issues
by Sheryl Allen
Mar 09, 2011 | 5285 views | 0 0 comments | 378 378 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Utah Legislature adjourns this Thursday night, but there is still time to enact both wise and ill-advised legislation.  Let me bring your attention to three areas of concern I have:

HB 477 — Government Records Amendments (GRAMA) is dangerous.  It will severely curtail many requests for government records.  It was rushed through the House and Senate in three brief days.  While I was in the Legislature, I did have GRAMA requests on some correspondence with individuals.  It was not pleasant to take time to review the emails for comments that were genuinely protected (most were comments on health issues from a constituent), but it was necessary. 

The public has a genuine right to access on public business.  This bill is on the Governor’s desk.  I urge Clipper readers to request a veto. (After press time the governor signed the bill.)

SB 165 1st Sub — Election Law Amendments.  The Utah Constitution guarantees the right of the public to enact laws through the initiative process, but Utah statutes make the process extraordinarily difficult. The threshold, at present, is too high.  Among other things, SB 165 would prevent the collection of the necessary signatures by electronic means.  The government and private sector conduct much of their business electronically.  It is the 21st century, and electronic signatures should be permissible for initiatives. 

SB 44 — State Commission Amendments.  Utahns care about taxes and they revere the national and state constitutions.  In Utah we have two effective commissions to advise the Legislature on these issues: the Tax Review Commission (TRC) and the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC).  Members are a few legislators but the majority of the members are expert volunteers from the public.  Their job is to carefully review legislative proposals on tax issues and amendments to the Utah Constitution.  Their deliberations are thoughtful, and a direct contrast to the rush of HB 477 on GRAMA. 

I believe this legislation, which would severely restrict what these commissions can study and when they can meet, is a reaction to the thoughtful independence of these commissions, particularly the CRC. 

In 2010, the CRC cautiously studied a proposed amendment to Utah’s Constitution that would restrict affirmative action programs in state government.  CRC members carefully looked at the implications, particularly for unintended consequences to education programs and religious protections. 

The CRC made no recommendations on this proposed amendment, but the study of the issues heightened the public discourse.  I believe this is the impetus for this bill. SB 44 should be defeated. 
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