Check. This. Out.

In the sounds-to-good-to-be-true category, check out this story from Utah. State lawmkers in the Beehive State are about to let the public read their email.
The Utah Legislature joins a small but growing list of governments expanding access to email and other forms of electronic communication.
Orange County, Fla., implemented a data retention and tracking system earlier this year designed to capture text messages and digital communications from the mobile devices of elected officials’ and county employees. Called MobileGuard -- formerly known as TextGuard -- the system automatically archives mobile communications and places them into an archive. That archive is available to everyone through a public records request.
For the past several years, Jacksonville, Fla., has provided access to emails received by the city’s mayor and staff on Jacksonville’s official website. Using a public login and password, users can view and print various emails.
Texas enacted two separate laws that provide further transparency to state and local level officials’ communications. SB 1297 went into effect on Sept. 1 and permits government officials to communicate using an online message board between official meetings. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the forum would be run by a government body and be accessible to the public. Content of the board would be retained for six years.
Two years ago, Utah was the poster child for What Are They Thinking? in FOI and open-government circles. Back then, a bill sprung on the public in the closing hours of the legislative session threatened to severely restrict public access to records. Legislators were quoted as saying they wanted to prevent "fishing expeditions," claiming they'd been swamped by requests for a "million-plus" records, but a newspaper review of public records requests flatly refuted that claim. The bill actually passed, but its life was short-lived, as the reaction from the public, press and some legislators and public officials pressured lawmakers to repeal it.
Fast forward to 2013 and, as Government Technology reports, the state is poised to launch an "online repository" of "house legislator correspondence" on the Utah legislature's website.
Some in the access community are pushing for tweaks to the system. But to this gal here in Virginia, where legislators and heads of political subdivisions can block off access to any and all correspondence under the "working papers" exemption, those tweaks are like adding a sports-package to an already tricked-out Mercedes.
If anything, Virginia has been going in the opposite direction. When the working papers got a facelift in the late 1990s, the goal was to prevent every piece of paper that floated into the governor's office (and, by extension, others who can use the exemption) being branded with a "working papers" stamp, whether its release would be harmful or not. Correspondence was included in the exemption, but it was not seen as a catch-all for any and all communication.
The late Delegate Chip Woodrum, who was the driving force behind the revision in the 90s, told a Virginian-Pilot reporter in 2011 that the exemption was intended to permit withholding records that would interfere with government functions if released, not to give officials an excuse to deny requests.
In terms of practical application, however, that is exactly how it’s come to be interpreted.
So, I’ll be watching the Utah experiment closely, especially in these times in the Old Dominion when the relationship between politics, money, gifts, disclosure and access is under the microscope. Lawmakers and other public officials could go a long ways toward fostering trust with the public if they would consider giving the working papers exemption a bit of a rest.

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