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Legislature turns sunshine back on, at least temporarilly

Sun Advocate publisher

The Utah State Legislature took a fall back option on Monday afternoon when they asked that HB 477, a bill that most experts felt gutted the state's Sunshine Laws, be recalled from Governor Gary Herbert's desk where it has sat since Friday night.

Apparently the relentless pressure from constituents and other interests had an effect on the legislators' thinking after a weekend of media hype concerning the bill that passed the House on Thursday and the Senate on Friday, 48 hours after it was introduced.

Reportedly the governor's office received hundreds of calls and thousands of emails from citizens outraged by the fast passage of the bill which would have taken not only provisions out of the Government Record Access Management Act (GRAMA), but also in two lines stripped much of the intent from the bill as well.

Locally the Sun Advocate has received numerous calls and emails from residents who were concerned about the bill. Local representatives were split when the votes were taken during last week's sessions. Rep. Christine Watkins had voted not to let the bill pass while Senator David Hinkins and Rep. Patrick Painter had voted to pass it in their respective chambers. Both Hinkins and Painter expressed concerns about privacy when interviewed about their decisions concerning the bill.

The way HB477 was worded it would have largely exempted the legislative branch from the law as well as restricting the release of several forms of communication, including voice mail and text messaging. The bill would have also raised fees for some types of research work.

Reportedly the impetus to recall the bill came from Herbert himself who told legislators that he though the process was rushed and needed more consideration.

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