Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What is your government doing?

The Utah Legislature wants to keep you from finding that out.
A Utah County legislator has introduced, on the last day of committee meetings, HB 477, a bill that would make texts, voice mail transcripts, video transcripts, instant messages and other similar communications not a public record. Basically, that means if your elected officials are colluding via text during a meeting, you don't have the right to know.
Which, of course, is complete BS.
I work and have lived in a little burg called Provo, Utah. I will spare you the gory details, but I have set through dozens, possibly hundreds, of various city meetings and listened to debate on hundreds, perhaps thousands of various topics.
And I have watched council members check their phones and their computers. I've seen them pass notes to each other. I know audience members have texted their friends on the council.
So what happens when two of those guys make an agreement on AIM? They've done all the debating they need to do. We just haven't heard any of it.
If this bill passes, we never will.
Right now, that's a gray area anyway, since things like voice mails, text messages and chats are difficult to get and generally happen on a person's private phone, although it concerns city business. But the goal of government should not be making gray areas black! Legislature, do you have no shame?
Wait. Don't answer that.
However, if HB 477 passes, there will be some pissed off people, most of whom have access to front pages, opinion pages, nightly newscasts, Twitter followers, Facebook groups and more. Watch transparency happen, Utah.
Also in the free speech arena (and there's no real winner here): the Supreme Court ruled that groups masquerading as churches have the right to be incredibly offensive and intentionally hurtful. I agree — but it pains me to agree. Read the opinion, concurrence and dissent here.

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