Working Group Selected to Re-Visit Open Records

(KCPW News) State lawmakers will be back to work this Friday. Last night, Governor Gary Herbert called the legislature into a special session to repeal HB 477, the controversial bill restricting access to many government records. Jeff Hunt, attorney for the Utah Media Coalition, was one of many people chosen to sit on a working committee to offer input to future changes to Utah’s public records law.

“I would expect that they would take time to hear from all the interested stakeholders, public and private, on what those stakeholders view as the strengths and weaknesses and ways that the law needs to improve,” he told KCPW. “And it is going to take some time for that to occur.”

The outcry from groups opposing HB 477 has been indisputable since the bill’s introduction and passage earlier this month, but Hunt believes Utahns have gained a lot in the process.

“It has really energized the public it terms of looking at the open records statute that we have, the value that it has to self-government, the value that it has to know what your government is doing,” he says.

Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Lane Beattie will chair the working group. Other members include David Kirkham with the Utah Tea Party, former Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael Wilkins, and the student body president of Salt Lake Community College. HB 477 may not get repealed this Friday, however. Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups tells the Salt Lake Tribune that Senate Republicans won’t vote to repeal the legislation until there’s another bill to replace it with.