Bill would limit access to records

By By Trent Lowe, Staff Writer

By Trent Lowe, Staff Writer

A Senate committee compromised today on House Bill 122, which attempts to restrict the public’s access to government records. Utah lawmakers made a concession that helped cool opposition, but failed to completely remove it.

The compromise would protect records that are involved in pending or anticipated litigation, meaning present or future lawsuits, according to Rep. Douglas Aagard, R-Kaysville, the bill’s sponsor.

“If you want records, you now have to request them and prove a reason for need,” said Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who assisted in creating the bill.

The original bill sought to amend the Government Records Access and Management Act, which allows any citizen to request and access government records, but also protects a person’s right to privacy by restricting information collected by the government.

Sponsors altered the bill, which was originally filed in late January, to cater to outcries heard from various media outlets, including the Utah Media Coalition, an organization committed to defending First Amendment rights.

“There were concerns from the media,” Shurtleff said. “But we feel that this compromise works to fix things.”

Many media outlets saw the bill as an attempt to restrict their access to the records, undercutting a vital source of information for journalists around the state.

“We believe a bill has been brought that nobody really likes, but it’s in the best interest of everyone involved,” said Doug Foxley, who represented the Utah Media Coalition.

The bill would affect Utah media outlets, including The Daily Utah Chronicle. Jim Fisher, an associate professor at the U and adviser to The Chronicle, testified against the bill on Feb. 9, but the bill passed favorably in the House and was passed to the Senate.

The bill will now be sent to the Senate floor for discussion.

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