Tom Smart, Deseret News
Utah State Capitol, Jan. 25, 2012, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Senate gave preliminary approval Thursday to revisions to the state Government Records Access and Management Act, including the development of an online training course to be completed by records officers on an annual basis.

Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, said SB177 was "the cumulative work product of many folks," among them legislative leaders, members of a media coalition and "average citizens."

The Senate voted unanimously to move the substituted bill to its final reading calendar.

The bill also grants rulemaking authority to the Division of Archives and Records Service and creates the position of ombudsman to help those making requests and processing them.

It also provides that "a record shall be disclosed when the public interest in disclosure is equal to or greater than the interests in nondisclosure."

The negotiated bill provides needed transparency in government yet "protects the rights of innocent consumers" from having GRAMA "used against them unnecessarily," Bramble said.

The bill also amends the law's protected records provisions relating to the attorney-client privilege and establishes an evidentiary standard for release of certain law enforcement and litigation records.

Last year, lawmakers attempted to make sweeping changes to the law, which was enacted in 1992. Members of the media, public and special interest groups rose up in opposition, causing the bill to be repealed. Subsequently, Gov. Gary Herbert and Republican legislative leaders appointed a working group of government, media, legal and public representatives. The panel spent three months discussing ways to improve the act.