Staff column: Repeal means never having to say you're sorry
Remember when you were a kid and your little brother (or sister) did something dastardly like hit you up the side of the head or stole your Easter basket candy and ate it behind the garden shed so you or your parents wouldn't know about it?
Sooner or later those kinds of actions resulted in that sibling being brought before you by your mother who said something along the lines of "Now tell him you are sorry and that it won't happen again."
How sincere did you ever think those apologies were? The sincerity came from the fact they were caught and they were sorry about that, but not what they did to you.
Last Friday I was on my way to Wyoming to visit my grandkids when I heard the news that HB 477 had been repealed. The notice actually came from Christine Watkins who called me to tell me. She is one who had opposed the bill from the beginning. I have to say I was delighted by that pronouncement, at least until I heard what some of the other members of the legislature were saying about the repeal.
Some did have reservations from the beginning and admitted that they had made a mistake and shouldn't have given into political pressure to vote for it in the first place. But it seems so many in the two houses that legislate our laws were more beligerant than ever, particularly the ones that voted against the repeal.
Once again they blamed the media for the whole thing. We were at fault because we pointed out that the way the bill was done, was unusual at the least, and slimy just beyond that.
We were at fault because we pointed out that experts all over the country said that with that change in legislation Utah had gone from having the best open government laws to the worst in the country, in fact some of the worst in the world.
We were at fault because we didn't want to see the present Government Records Access Management Act go the way of the dodo bird.
We were at fault because we promoted an agenda that included rallies against the legislation, signing the petitions for the referendum that had been filed by a private group and campaigns to call and write legislators to repeal the law.
We are also accused of being something that legislators are close to and react to all the time, lobbiests. That word has become a dirty word in many peoples circles, but that is part of the political process in this country. Calling the media lobbiests puts a label on them as much as it does on us.
As the fourth estate, it is our job to report news to the citizens of the country. The concept of the fourth estate is as a societal or political force or institution whose influence is not consistently or officially recognized. Legislators love us when we report the things they do that are helpful to the communities they serve. They don't like it when we report things that they don't want people to know about.
Gerry Adams, an Irish politician who was one of the main architects of bringing Northern Ireland back from the brink of a destructive civil war once said "One man's transparency is another man's humiliation."
Transparency in government is all important in a democracy (or a republic, whichever you prefer). GRAMA provides that transparency and sometimes it isn't pretty. I believe the negotiations that will now be going on in the working group that was formed to review changes to GRAMA will have a significant impact on the law and I believe that will be for the good.
I guess legislators felt they needed a big stick to get our attention, and they found it by trying to force a law down our throats. Fortunately for the citizenry, the legislature brought that stick to a gun fight.
Now maybe we, the citizens have their attention.
And maybe next year they will start to also consider real ethics reform before the people rise up and beat them up about that as well.