Redistricting Documents Online
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:
Documents responsive to the Republican Party GRAMA request:
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