|Rep. John Dougall, (R - Giant Hypocrite)|
Our elected officials are entrusted with representing us, and often seem to forget that they work for us, not their own claim to power. But more of a travesty here is a disrespect for the role of the media. The media, more so than any elected official, are a true extension of the people.
If there is indeed an over-reach by the media (keep in mind no legitimate example of such has been given) in the use of GRAMA, that is a necessary evil, and there are, again, far better options -- some that would take advantage of the very technology legislators have expressed concern about -- than restricting public access to the governing process. Utah legislators should feel obligated to err on the side of protecting that relationship between voters and lawmakers provided by an aggressive and attentive investigative media.
With HB477, legislators, led by Rep. John "Champion of Open Government" Dougall, and Senator Lyle "My Law Clients Come First" Hillyard, have instead erred on the side of protecting themselves.
My comment on the Senate Site post:
So far, legislators, primarily Dougall and Hillyard have provided only anecdotal “evidence” of the cost. And even if cost really is an issue, this is perhaps the least creative “fix” to that, and one that happens to not just “lose the PR” battle, but paints the legislature as making a judgment call on “worth” not so much as “cost.”Not a proud day for Senator Hillyard, or the legislative process in Utah.
Outside of cost, Hillyard spent a lot of time in the media briefing and on the floor pointing out that clients sometimes email him at his legislative address. I understand that concern, and I even sympathize to an extent that our legislators who have jobs outside of their legislative duties. But what was so disappointing for me, listening to Hillyard, was his complete lack of personal responsibility. Senator, you are an elected official, charged with representing the people of Cache Valley, not just your law office clients. If your clients are emailing you at your Senate address, you (and only you) need to take responsibility for correcting that. It’s not — in any way shape or form — the responsibility of your constituents, who expect an open and transparent governing process.
Finally, I love the outreach from our legislature online. Especially that of the Senate body. But in effect, the way this has been handled, and the decisions leadership have made in how to begin a dialog -- implied by their “we’ll get back to this later” message to Utah’s media -- undermines that very outreach. Those of us who know legislators personally or interact to a greater degree during the legislative session may be able to see past this and watch for a continuing dialog, but for the general public busy with their daily lives, HB477 and the process by which it became law this week furthers the notion that their lawmakers are only telling them half of the story.
The point of “sunshine” or “open government” initiatives are not only good government, but a more engaged and less cynical public. With this process, and this bill, the Utah Legislature has done more to feed that cynicism than fight it. I am disappointed that Senator Hillyard would be more concerned about the “trials and tribulations” of legislators than the bigger picture of encouraging public faith in Utah’s institutions.
Now Governor Herbert has a choice.
Help him make it.
Email the Governor, or Call:801-538-1000