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STATE AGENICES HOPE TO CHANGE RECORD-ACCESS LAW BY APRIL 1992

A Utah law aimed at improving public access to government records is under fire by state agencies that want it changed before it takes effect.

The 1991 Legislature approved the Government Records Access and Management Act earlier this year following a two-year task-force study.The bill goes into effect April 1, 1992, but some agencies are seeking changes by lawmakers next January.

They fear the law will force wholesale public disclosure of records previously kept secret or that new requirements will be expensive and time-consuming, said Jeffery Johnson, State Records Committee secretary.

State Auditor Tom Allen, another committee member, said the records act is "a totally misunderstood law."

The Records Committee on Tuesday refused to act as the clearinghouse for government questions and concerns over the bill. Instead, the panel endorsed a plan by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel to channel those objections through the original task force that drafted the legislation.

Many agencies object to the task-force plan to begin reviewing proposed amendments in November, two months before the Legislature begins.

"I think the process is flawed," said Harden Eyring, staffer to the State Board of Regents. "You'll get such a raft of amendments, and it'll be a real sifting process come November."

The task force wants to focus on technical problems with the bill and will oppose major amendments it has not approved, according to a memo from Legislative Research.

Johnson said among the most frequent agency complaints are the bill's mandate for disclosure of draft documents circulated outside government or those used in forging policy.

Several agencies also have assailed the provision establishing the Records Committee as the appeals board for denied public-information requests. Critics would rather see appeals go back to the same agency that originally denied a request.