Utah Foundation for Open Government

 

The Utah Foundation for Open Government, a citizen coalition, was founded in 1996. Its purpose is to encourage, sponsor and facilitate the public’s right to know about the workings of government at all levels and to foster open government.

Originally organized under the Utah Headliners chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, in recent years UFOG has opened its board to citizen groups and now includes representatives from the Utah League of Women Voters, the Attorney General’s office, Davis County Concerned Writers (Davis Democratic Party), Utah Republican Party, the Utah Press Association and Utah Headliners. Currently other groups are being invited to participate.

UFOG’s accomplishments include:

  •  Production and statewide distribution of the “Utah Open Government Guide & Utah Media Law Handbook”
  •  Completion of a 2005 statewide Freedom of Information audit of government compliance for citizen requests for public documents under the Government Records Access and Management Act.
  • Completion and ongoing statewide distribution of a DVD and lesson plan for high school instructors which outlines the importance of open government and encourages high school students to get involved in their government. (2010)
  •  Seminars across the state on the Utah Open Meetings Law, the Government Records Access Law and citizen access to government meetings and records
  •  Seminars in partnership with the Utah Attorney General’s office and/or the Utah Press Association on these topics and the AG’s support of a state judicial reporters’ shield rule of law (Rule 501).

For more information on UFOG, please contact Linda Petersen, president, at 801-554-7513, or at utahfoundation@gmail.com.

 

Welcome! Below is a list of bills/potential bills of the 2013 Utah Legislature concerning transparency and open government that we are tracking.

HB 41 (Powell, R-Heber City) This bill removes an old and apparently never enforced law that required newspapers to register with county clerks before publishing information that may influence elections.

House Bill 78 (Powell, R-Heber City) would require more public information when lawmakers request legislative staff to prepare legislation. Under the bill, the form for requesting legislation must include the name of the legislator making the request, the date the form was submitted and the short title for the requested legislation, all of which would be designated public information.


HB 266 (Greenwood, R-Roy) This bill adds penalties for unauthorized use of motor vehicle records, making it a class B misdemeanor to obtain vehicle and public safety records "with the intent to cause a benefit or harm to a person, or to cause damage to a person's property."

Senate Joint Resolution 3 (Osmond, R-South Jordan) calls for eliminating so-called "boxcar" bills, in which legislators essentially reserve a spot for a bill without having to reveal what the actual bill will say. These empty "boxcars" often become last-minute surprise legislation, which circumvents the normal vetting processes of transparent government.

 

SB 12 (Van Tassell, R-Vernal) This bill would make a private record of all customer information from transit agencies, principally the Utah Transit Authority. It is entirely proper to protect customer credit card information, but this bill is overly broad, including travel information and other data that the public can use to analyze the transit agency's efficiency without unduly exposing anyone.

 

SB 124: This grants a sales tax exemption on "amounts paid or charged to access a data base if the primary purpose for accessing the data base is to view or retrieve information from the data base

Bill ideas being proposed:

 

 Public Email Repository for Legislators.  (Bramble, R- Provo) Senator Bramble would like to sponsor a bill that would create a public portal on the Legislature’s website through which the public could access the public emails of legislators.  The email repository would be searchable by sender, receiver, and subject.  Legislators would not be required to send their public emails to the repository, but there likely would be some peer pressure to do so, especially if the news media applaud those who do and chastise those who do not.  The contemplated legislation would not change the current law with respect to the public classification of or access to legislative emails; it would just make it easier for the public access some public emails and less costly for the Legislature to provide access to such emails. 

 

Changes to Membership of State Records Committee. (Bramble, R-Provo)  Bramble’s proposed bill also would change the makeup of the State Records Committee by removing the State Auditor’s designee and allowing the Government to appoint an additional public member.  Bramble said this change was requested by State Auditor John Dougall who said he believed it was a conflict of interest for his office to appoint a member to a state agency that it might audit.

 

Public Disclosure to the Names of Signatories on Public Initiative and Referenda.  (Bramble, R- Provo)  Bramble wants to clarify that the names of persons who sign petitions for state initiatives or referenda are public.  This issue has been litigated in Washington State and went up the United States Supreme Court.  The issue is currently before Judge Waddoups in the United States District Court for the District of Utah in the context of public access to the names of persons who signed the ethics reform petition initiative.  The argument against public access is that it would chill people from participating in the initiative or referenda process and could put some signers at risk of retaliation at work, etc.  The argument for public access is that the initiative and referenda process is an alternative means of legislative action, and the names of the law makers (the citizens) should be public just as the names of legislators’ are. Also, public access and scrutiny of the names serves as a check on fraud or errors in the petition process.

 

   New Exception for Department of Public Safety Disciplinary Records.  ??? The DPS has requested further protection in GRAMA for investigative records relating to the discipline of law enforcement officers and other Department employees. 

 

Others that there’s currently little or no information available (proposed but not numbered):

GRAMA revisions – (Dabakis, D-SLC)

State Records Committee Amendments – (McCay, R-Riverton)

Utah Transparency Act Amendment –  (Henderson, R-Spanish Fork)

Open data and best use practices

 

If you are aware of other legislation that affects open government , please let us know at utahfoundationforopengov@gmail.com