As most of you are aware, the General Session closed at midnight on March 10. I believe the Legislature accomplished much good this session. We reduced the structural imbalance(one time money in ongoing programs) in the state budget (down from 313 million to 50 million), funded growth in Public Education, replaced a building for severely mentally ill children at the State Hospital in Provo, did NOT raises taxes, and left hundreds of millions of dollars in the state’s rainy day funds. We also addressed significant policies surrounding Immigration. Unfortunately, one issue seems to overshadow our work. I have spent every day since the end of the session working on this issue. Even when I am not at the Capitol, I am dealing with the consequences and fallout of HB 477.
Over the last two weeks, much has been said and felt about HB 477. I voted for HB 477 believing that this bill maintained openness in government while solving well documented abuses of GRAMA. Since the bill passed, and even with a delayed effective date, it has become abundantly clear that few in the public share that sentiment.
As Speaker of the House and your Representative, it was not my intent to sneak anything through the legislative process or violate the public trust. My only goal was to pass good policy that would serve the people and taxpayers of the state well. We all learn lessons in life. This is one of those times. I have learned that the public needed more time to become aware of the issues surrounding GRAMA, and help us formulate solutions. It is a lesson I won’t forget.
Our Republic is based on the people making their wishes known, and their Representatives responding to them. We have heard your voice. We are listening. And the Republican caucus is responding to your concerns by supporting a repeal of HB 477. I believe the House of Representatives will do its part to repeal HB 477 during the Special Session on Friday. I personally support the repeal and my vote will reflect that decision.
We will work over the next few months with a broad-based working group to address this issue in a thoughtful and measured way and bring forward solutions to the challenges and questions facing elected officials, political subdivisions, and taxpayers. The first meeting of this working group was yesterday, Wednesday March 23rd, at 9:00 am, and we streamed it live for anyone and everyone to see and hear. The working group decided to hold a meeting every Wednesday at the same time and at the same location. I invite you to continue to follow their deliberations through streaming video at the House and Senate web sites. Or feel free to come to the Capitol in room 210 of the Senate Building. We are working on a web site, a twitter account and Facebook page for the working group as well. This group’s efforts will result in new legislation that brings GRAMA into the 21st Century. It will be legislation we can all be proud of.
I have attached some of the information that I have concerning the GRAMA issue. First is a comparison of GRAMA with and without HB 477. (Remember that HB 477 will not and would not have gone into effect until July 1, 2011). Next, is a copy of the policy questions the working group will try to answer during its meetings. Finally, I have attached a Supreme Court decision that directly impacts the application and interpretation of GRAMA. Please understand that I did not go into this decision or process on HB 477 with no knowledge or information about the issue.
Please visit the Legislative Web Site at www.le.utah.gov to see the text of HB 477 or any other piece of legislation. There you can also listen to recordings of floor debates and committee hearings: some dating back many years. The schedule of all of our meetings is posted there as well. The House also has a web site: www.utah.gov/house and a blog: Vox Populi at www.utahreps.net I welcome your input and suggestions at any time. My government email is firstname.lastname@example.org (be aware that anything you send me, due to GRAMA, may be subject to public disclosure-that includes anything on my personal electronic devices as well)
Representative Becky Lockhart
View the GRAMA – HB477 Comparison Chart
View the Working Group Policy Questions