Groups launch petition drive to repeal records bill HB477

Published: Thursday, March 17 2011 12:00 p.m. MDT

Common Cause President and CEO Bob Edgar was the notable non-Utahn at the rally, traveling to Salt Lake City from Washington, D.C., to voice his concern for the effects of HB477, which he believes are not isolated. "There is a major national effort to dissolve transparency laws," he said. "We were here in the ’90s to help the League of Women Voters get (GRAMA) in place. We're back now to help save it."

Steve Maxfield, chairman of the SaveGRAMA Citizens Coalition, compared the bill's language that would allow legislators to keep private the text messages they send and receive on state-owned cell phones to "sexting" among teenagers. "Now we have 'lexting.' Lexting is the prostitution of our state government to lobbyists," he said.

The referendum application was filed hours before Herbert signed another bill, SB165, which bans electronic petition signatures. It remains unclear whether that would allow the use of e-signatures in the referendum drive. SB165 took effect immediately since it passed both houses with a two-thirds majority.

On Wednesday, the national Society of Professional Journalists gave Utah its first-ever "Black Hole Award" to highlight the new records law, which it said makes Utah the most secretive state in the nation.

Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, called for its repeal on Wednesday, saying HB477 is the wrong approach to balancing access and privacy. Earlier in the week, Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, apologized for his "yes" vote.

Find more information about the petition drive at saveGRAMA.org and www.thepeople-voices.org.

E-mail: sfidel@desnews.com, jdaley@desnews.com

Twitter: SteveFidel

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