Bill requiring free public records sent back to drawing board
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Rep. Brian King's efforts to require agency's to provide public documents at no cost is going on the back burner.

The House Political Subdivisions Committee voted unanimously Monday to send HB122 back to the House Rules Committee to be assigned to interim study during the year. House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, said that would give King time to work out concerns raised by opponents of the bill.

The Salt Lake City Democrat's bill would have required a government agency to provide public records free of charge under the Government Records Access and Mangement Act (GRAMA), after determining that releasing the records would benefit the public more than an individual.

King, who served on the GRAMA working group in the wake of the 2011 HB477 controversy, said there are government agencies that are abusing the state law's current discretion in fee waivers. GRAMA states that entities "may" waive fees when a records request is being made in the public's interest.

But Lynn Pace, with the Utah League of Cities and Towns, warned that King's bills would create a financial burden for cities that would find themselves answering voluminous records requests, such as the infamous request for Alta's town records.

"If you broadcast in advance that whatever you ask for is free, the requests will get larger," Pace said.

King said his bill would preserve an entity's discretion in determining if a request is in the public interest, but once that determination was made, the fee would have to be waived.

King said he would use the interim study to work out how to resolve disputes over whether records are being released in the public benefit.