This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The right-wing Utah legislative steamroller that reached new heights this year in trampling on the authorities of local governments and school boards, while centralizing more power in their own hands, has finally hit a crack.
While the news media has put intense pressure on the Legislature and Gov. Gary Herbert to repeal or veto HB477, which would make it more difficult to access public records, another unlikely group has weighed in against the bill and made it clear to the Republican-dominated Legislature that it finally has gone too far.
The most visible GOP backlash came from Jeremy Votaw, last fall's Republican candidate for Salt Lake County clerk, whose father, Rick Votaw, is vice chairman of the Salt Lake County Republican Party.
Votaw began an online petition drive Monday asking Herbert to veto the bill. Within four hours, he had 750 signatures. His stated goal is to have 20,000 by Thursday.
Votaw, a committed Republican, says the passage of the bill that exempts certain communications by legislators from the law allowing access to government records made him realize the extreme nature of this Legislature.
"I wrote on the Facebook page of [one legislator, a tea-party favorite] expressing my concern about the bill and he called me up and started screaming at me," Votaw said, adding that lawmaker's comments demonstrated his reliance on misinformation about the issue.
The bill would exempt legislators' text messages and instant messaging from the Government Records Access and Management Act. Votaw, an advertising consultant, said that would tempt legislators to use texting and instant messaging as their primary modes of communication.
Senate President Michael Waddoups announced Monday the Legislature was pulling the bill back to make some changes, including changing the effective date (it initially was to take effect immediately) so people could have a chance to discuss it.
Also on Monday, conservative Republican Rep. Carl Wimmer of Herriman wrote on his Facebook page that he believes the Legislature made a mistake and should reconsider the bill. That was just two days after he defended the passage of the bill.
Eagle Forum President Gayle Ruzicka reportedly has told a number of people that she opposes the bill because it would limit her and other conservative activists' ability to follow the issues they support or oppose at the Legislature. That might explain why Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, was the only Republican senator to vote against the bill last week. Buttars should be complimented for being the only member of his GOP caucus to express concern about the hasty way the bill was pushed through with hardly any discussion.
Other Republican lawmakers have said that it's one thing to get complaints from the news media or liberal groups, but they have been hearing from their own Republican delegates who are outraged with the way the bill was passed.
A "Repeal HB477" page went up on Facebook on Monday and within a couple of hours got more than 60 comments supporting the repeal many from known Republicans.