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Democrats aren't laughing at a joke bill filed by a Republican — who, ironically, did it to try, like Democrats, to force Republicans to hold open caucus meetings.

But Rep. Kraig Powell, R-Heber City, used an unorthodox strategy to gain attention to his push for open caucuses: He introduced HB226 as a joke. It would allow local governments to close their meetings anytime they feel that "conducting the discussion in a closed meeting is preferable." He contends that is what the Legislature can do with closed party caucuses.

Utah Democratic Chairman Jim Dabakis did not thank Powell for seeking open caucuses. Instead, he held a Capitol press conference Wednesday to attack him.

"We at the Democratic Party think there is a time for frivolity and fun but not when it comes to introducing bills. It's an expensive process," he said. "In the future if he wants to send a message bill … he can speak to his Republicans colleagues at our Democratic podium" instead of wasting taxpayer money introducing a bill.

Powell said he doesn't take lightly writing a bill that he has no intention of passing, but did it to make a point. He said he wrote the bill himself, and figures it took staff "less than 10 minutes" to put it in final form for introduction.

But Dabakis complains that GOP leaders say legislative attorneys are so busy writing bills that it is delaying filling a Democratic open-records request for communications between GOP lawmakers about redistricting — which Democrats figure will show they used partisan data to draw new congressional boundaries in ways to give Republicans big advantages.

"They say they have no time to respond" to the Democrats' request, Dabakis complained. "But they respond immediately to the joke bill request of Representative Kraig Powell."

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