SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, has introduced a bill that would require fees to be waived for Government Records Access and Management Act requests if the information benefits the public good.
Under current law, any government entity issuing a public document through GRAMA "may fulfill a record request without charge" but is not required to waive the fee.
"This question about when you waive fees and when you don't is puzzling," said King, sponsor of HB122. "It's subject to too much discretion.”
In response to concerns that some may abuse the system if the bill passes, he noted that government agencies will still determine whether the information benefits the public good.
"The government agency is still in the driver's seat," King said.
He cited the example of the Utah Democratic Party's request for legislative redistricting records as an instance where HB122 could have prevented the $5,000 fee for the records and subsequent lawsuit.
“The Democratic Party example was another reminder that even when you have, what seems to me, a clearly apparent public interest, you can have a government agency or the records commission say, 'Yeah, but we're going to make you pay,'" he said.
"What I'm trying to do is make it so if something is in the public interest and is requested, the government has to release the document without charge," King said. "Public access to information shapes our democracy and is the lifeblood of good public policy. If we are undermining access, we are undermining democracy."