The Issues


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Government Records Access and Management Act


The Background

Open records are a bedrock principle to our government.  The first Amendment in the US Constitution states, 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  

Questionable transactions rarely occur in the light of day - they usually occur behind closed doors and “in the dark.”  To assure the best laws and in turn the best government possible we need open, transparent meetings and public access to government records.    

Utah’s “GRAMA” Law

Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act was groundbreaking 20 years ago and is still vitally important to us today.  It has allowed for the public to have access to government records and been the medium through which transparency as a principle is facilitated.  

It is also true that many forms of electronic communication did not exist 20 years ago and even less could anyone have imagined how much we would use them today.  Text messaging, instant messaging, chats, Blackberries, Iphones, etc. did not exist so they are not mentioned by GRAMA at all.  Additionally, most of those are commonly used as two way communication between more than one individual.  That creates two considerations that GRAMA in Utah needs to address: 1) pragmatic issues associated with the costs of data collection, sorting, and management to make millions of data elements publicly accessible; and 2) privacy rights of individuals interacting with elected officials.

We should do everything we can to maintain the most light possible on government operations.  Where changes in GRAMA are needed for pragmatic reasons or to protect the privacy of the public they should be done in a way that is consistent with the spirit of GRAMA - openly and in a transparent manner.