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November 16, 2012

11

Redistricting Documents Online

Winter Aspen Boles, Utah

This week, legislative leaders decided to create an online archive of the redistricting documents responsive to two partisan GRAMA requests.  Here’s the letter from the President, Speaker and caucus leaders.

As you might remember, The legislature received two GRAMA requests for redistricting documents – one from each of the two major political parties in Utah.  Both asked for fee waivers.  Both were denied.  The GOP paid the processing costs up front, received the documents and made them public. The Democratic Party request cast a much wider net.  Here’s an excerpt:

“All communication . . . whether paper or electronic, between members of the Utah State Legislature, their staff, and/or outside organizations, individuals, or entities that … reflect, regard or reference the purported grounds or criteria discussed, referenced, considered – officially or unofficially - regarding proposed or adopted congressional, Utah House or Utah Senate maps . . . . “  [italics added]

This request was the largest legislative request in the history of Utah’s GRAMA  law and took hundreds of hours of work to produce 16,000 pages of records at significant cost.  Only part of the processing costs for this second request have  been paid and only part of the documents have been provided to the requestor.  None have ever been posted online, to our knowledge, until today.

Here they are.

 Documents responsive to the Democratic Party GRAMA request:

Disk01

Disk02

Disk03

Disk04

Disk05

Disk06

Disk07

Disk08

Disk09

Disk10

Disk11

Disk12

Disk13

Disk14

Documents responsive to the Republican Party GRAMA request:

Disk15

Again, discs 1-14 responded to the largest legislative GRAMA request in the history of that law.  Our response was not optional; we were legally bound by the specific language of the request.

There was some controversy.  Should the requestor be responsible to the taxpayers for the high costs incurred by the sweeping language of their request?  The legislature said yes.  The requestor disagreed, appealed, lost and took the matter to the 3rd District Court.

At the same time, media entities such as the Salt Lake Tribune, Fox13 and ABC4 requested the same documents.  Fox13 is in the process of bringing their request to the Legislative Records Committee.

Where the partisan political organizations were unable to convince the committee that they were acting primarily in the public interest and not in their own self-interest, the appeal by a media organization like Fox13  – with a different fact pattern, unique circumstances and different standing related to their work in the public interest -  may have resulted in different outcome.

Also – we all agree that these documents are public. The point of disagreement was over the cost to the taxpayers which, it appears, we will never recoup.  A court battle over $9,250 would probably cost taxpayers more to litigate than just waiving the fee.

With that in mind, legislative leaders believe the right course would be to prevent further loss of  taxpayer dollars, avoid putting the interested media through more process, and present these documents to whom they belong – the Utah taxpayers.

 

 Winter Aspen photo taken by Bret Edge. Used with permission. http://www.bretedge.com

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  • http://twitter.com/utahsenate Utah State Senate

    Probably also ought to note:

    1. The charges were based on legislative fee schedules,

    2. The hourly charge for work was a significant discount from the actual labor cost,

    3.  This wasn’t just printing up emails… people had to search through hundreds of thousands of potential records and then review each message or document to see if it (a) fit the request and (b) was a public or private document, and

    4.  Several documents needed legal review.

    Sometimes people don’t realize how complicated the review is and why the costs were what they were.

    • Anonymous

      That is your job. Stop complaining and do it.

    • Anonymous

      It doesn’t matter what the cost is.  Take the $13 million payout for the I-15 freeway debacle for instance.  Take all the money set aside for future lawsuits on republican legislation that is passed, knowing that it’s unconstitutional.  Your arguments have no merit.  We, THE TAXPAYER, require that you are open and transparent in your jobs.  Your gerrymandering is contrary to what our founders intended for our government.

  • Anonymous

    Did anyone contact the Democratic Party and ask them to be more specific?  Did you give the same number of pages to the GOP, because you imply their request was less “sweeping”? How was their request worded? What was the GOP charged? What was the ratio of paper documents to electronic documents? Assuming the later was higher, was a word search on “redistricting” so very time consuming?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Whiting/653565424 Chris Whiting

    Asking for huge sums of money from Utah Democrats when releasing documents, because of what your statement calls their “fact-patterns” and “self-interest,” is a sign of bad faith in checks and balances involving sensitive voter-concerning activities. Partisan legislative committees should not have influence over which documents are released at what time, and for what price to which person.

    More than that, partisan legislative committees should not have power to barter over groups of voters they and their political competitors legislate. It’s well established by journalists nationwide, even non-partisan ones (I recommend the SLTrib’s Paul Rolly) that blue Salt Lake was cut into four pieces in an attempt to split a minority voting bloc. I personally was not able to vote with my neighbors in district four, now not two blocks from my home. Although the choice is inevitably up to the voters, Michael Waddoups and the Utah legislature has far too much ability to determine which voters determine their own political fortunes–although they will never admit nor relinquish it. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/55286488-90/church-lake-salt-bishop.html.csp

    • Nick Nichols

      That’s funny.  For a second there I thought you described Paul Rolly as a “journalist” and “nonpartisan”

  • Anonymous

    I requested the same documents as the Dems and was denied. Apparently I did not make a strong enough argument that these records were of interest to the PUBLIC many of whom had been actively involved in the redistributing process, including myself. As a member of Represent Me Utah, I had attended many town meetings across the state, testified at legislative meetings, and wanted to see these documents to understand what happened behind closed doors. The response I received was that “it was not appropriate for a private citizen to request records or a fee waiver for records if it was for personal use only.” Of course, my request for these records was not for personal use, but to inform the public further on the redistricting process.

    Hopefully the public will now be able to see the records that have been held back for approx 1 year.

  • http://twitter.com/JulieVasq Julie Vasquez

    This is becoming a national pattern.  Taxpayers forced to bail out bumbling democrat schemes.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/gareth.sparks Gareth Sparks

    Why no block assignment files anywhere for Senate/House districts? SB125 and HB286 explicitly say they’re on the website (which is kind of weird, but still).