Repeal would blunt a referendum drive against HB477 that the Deseret Media Companies, which include the Deseret News and KSL, are supporting.
In a new argument, some legislators now say their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure are violated whenever staff rummage through their email and records to comply with a GRAMA request.
"We all have rights," Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, told the panel. "People have a right to privacy in their private and business dealings."
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, said he has four different lives — his public life as a part-time legislator, his private life, his professional life as an accountant and his ecclesiastical life as a church leader — and only records from the first should be available.
Other members of the group, however, said any communication on a device paid for by the public should be open to disclosure, while personal conversations should remain on a separate, personal device. They said there are already privacy protections in GRAMA.
"This is the work you've chosen," radio host and blogger Jason Williams told the legislators, arguing that the records law should not be whatever makes them feel comfortable.
The group's discussions are sure to delve into fine legal distinctions. In Wednesday's meeting, lawyers for the Legislature and the attorney general could not even agree on what the current law says about whether personal notes legislators write to themselves while considering policy are considered public records.
Another focus will be two Utah Supreme Court cases decided in 2008 that granted access to records: one involving a report sought by the Deseret News on alleged sexual harassment by Salt Lake County employees, and another about maps sought by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance in a dispute over rural roads.
Lawmakers have said they included a provision in HB477 to strip "intent language" favoring openness from GRAMA in an effort to prevent courts from deciding what should be public.
The group may split up in future sessions to consider each bundle of issues separately. It will ultimately make recommendations to a legislative interim committee, which will draft a new bill in time for another special session in June.
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