Friday, March 25, 2011

Post No. 2 - Also, a small rant about Utah's HB477

Alright, post number 2. I realized I can post via my BlackBerry, so I think I might actually be able to restart this blog and keep it going.

That introduction turned out to be a lot shorter on paper (webpage?) than it was in my head. So I guess I'll talk a little about current events. Cuz everyone wants to read another nameless person's opinion on the politics of an area they can't even vote in, right?

Note that this entire post is moot, because under pressure from the masses HB477 was repealed (today in fact, unless I'm mistaken). Pressure that I believe was instigated by big media.


I imagine the majority of people who accidently stumble across this won't be from Utah, so I'll very briefly outline what HB477 was (to the best of my limited understanding). Or, if you're one of the very few people in America who actually read legislation before passing judgment on it (which would surprise me, not even most members of Congress read the legislation they pass), you can take a look at it here:  http://le.utah.gov/~2011/bills/hbillenr/hb0477.htm
Basically, this bill modified the Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA). GRAMA is a very nice piece of legislation, intended to keep government honest by making documents public. HB477 made two changes to GRAMA which are worth addressing.

1. The original text of GRAMA excluded the following types of documents from the public record: "a personal note or personal communication." HB477 changed this to text messages (unless they were related to legislative duties as an electonic meeting under Utah Code 52-4-207), voicemails, instant messages (not including emails) video chats (same restriction as text messages), and personal notes.

2. GRAMA allowed documents to be obtained with monies out of the general tax fund. HB477 required the person seeking the documents to pay the costs associated with accessing them.
The first point was the one most readily seized on. I think I've given enough information on it so that anyone reading this is more informed on what HB477 did than the vast majority of the protesters. HB477 did not really exclude anything from the public record that was not already excluded. If anything, HB477 Narrowed the forms of communication that were excluded.

The second point is a logical decision by any state in these troubled financial times. I would contend that tax dollars should not be used to allow private individuals access to legislator's communications.

I hope I don't come off as a conspiracy theorist, but I believe the reason for the outrage behind HB477 was created and fueled by news media for two reasons.
First, many politicians are arrogant self-serving leeches on society - a sad truth that is more acknowledged and permitted in these times than history suggests has always been the case in America. Because of this, there's a great deal of smut in the everyday life of a politician - information that can be turned into lots of money by a news medium.
Second, I think it's a safe assumption that the majority of access to these records is done by news media. It only makes sense that they would stir-up public outrage over a government decision that would increase their costs.

That's pretty much all I've got on the issue - typing this took a lot more effort than I thought it would. I should conclude by saying that Government should be as limited, local, and open as is conceivably possible. But that doesn't mean that everything they do is bad, or that modern media (or any profit-seeking organization) is any more trustworthy than government is.

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