Governor pushing for GRAMA ombudsman

SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert favors having an ombudsman to handle requests for state government records.

And he said Thursday if lawmakers aren't prepared to create the position with legislation, he'll do it by executive order. Herbert said the ombudsman would act as "traffic cop" to facilitate requests and access to records.

The idea for an ombudsman grew out of the GRAMA working group the state formed after the HB477 debacle last year. The Legislature attempted to make the Government Records and Access and Management Act more restrictive, drawing loud public protests. Lawmakers later repealed the changes and set up a broad-based committee to study the law.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, who served on the working group, intends to run a bill proposing changes to GRAMA, including the creation of an ombudsman.

Herbert said he wants to work with the Legislature to make that happen. The state, he said, could create the position at minimal cost to existing budgets.

— Dennis Romboy

Skiing, snowboarding to be Utah's official winter sports

SALT LAKE CITY — Just in time for making a run at hosting the Olympics again, skiing and snowboarding are set to become Utah's official winter sports.

The Senate unanimously approved HB201 on Thursday, adding the popular activities to the long list of state symbols. The House earlier approved the bill. It now goes to the governor.

Bill sponsor Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, said state symbols represent land and people, and this is the first one to tie both together.

Eliason noted the ski/snowboard industry brought $1.2 billion to Utah last year, up 67 percent since the 2002 Winter Olympics. Utah is the third most visited ski destination in the country and 40 percent of Utah homes have a skier or snowboarder, he said.

— Dennis Romboy

Governor, legislative leaders handicap chances for another Olympics

What are the chances of Salt Lake City getting the 2022 Winter Games?

"Less than 25 percent," according to Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville.

"I think it's closer to 50," said Gov. Gary Herbert. "On paper, we look really good."

But, he said, politics and other factors come into play.

Salt Lake City likely will be up against other western cities such as Denver and Reno-Tahoe for 2022.

"I would like to compete against Denver because they're quitters. They've already had a chance and they just dropped out," Waddoups said.

He figures Utah's odds are better for 2026

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“I have no idea what the odds are but I think it’s exciting,” House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo, said. When told how the governor and the Senate president handicapped the bid race, she said, “I’m going to stick with my answer.”

House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, was more specific.

“I’m going to say 35.3,” he said, calling the bid “a great idea. I think what improves our odds is we have venues in place and we can show that we can do it. In this kind of global economy, I think that’s in our favor.”

— Dennis Romboy