Legislative Bulletin: My GRAMA wish list
by Joel Campbell
Jul 04, 2009 | 878 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I believe we need an offensive strategy with GRAMA rather than always playing defense. As we discuss GRAMA, I suggest the following improvements to the law:

– Mandatory appeals for all entities to the state records committee. We see more and more local governments opting out of allowing appeals to the State Records Committee. Utah County, Jordan School District and Provo are among those I am aware of. This is such a simple step that should be allowed for all citizens.

– Attorneys fees if requester prevails.

– Public access counselor. This has been very effective in such states as Indiana. This office actually goes to bat for the public to get access to records and meetings.

– Here are some ideas from the federal electronic FOIA amendments: - Requiring public record reading rooms on public Web sites. Frequently requested records would be posted here. Also, GRAMA requests could be filed online. A recent survey of local government Web sites shows info about GRAMA is hard to find or non-existent.

– Accountability. Have an annual report that tracks the backlog and number of requests responded to. This may help us counter the red herring argument that the media is going to backlog us with requests.

– Posters in each government office that declares that records of the office are "public" and explains that requesters don't have to give reasons for requesting records, etc. Texas has this requirement.

– Add a few more "public records" to the public record list such 911 tapes and jail mug shots ( this has been recognized by the state records committee and a district court). I think some clarification on police "initial contact reports" may be in order.

One more thing. I think we are going to see another bill about nuisance requests pushed by the League of Cities and Town. The last bill sponsored by Rep. Greg Hughes was horrible, but we had little resources and time to deal with it. Thankfully it never got on the Senate calendar. I recently saw that one state is considering requiring a judicial order declaring a "nuisance" in a case where the government entity can show a requester has become a "nuisance." Although I would prefer no such provision, this may be better than what was proposed. I favor some other authority besides local government officials deciding who is a records requester nuisance.

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