Party officials picked up Monday from the Legislature one “box” of GRAMAed material, Senate Chief of Staff Ric Cantrell confirmed to UtahPolicy.
The party was notified in mid-April that the material was available, and the party had already paid $5,000 for the cost of researching and copying the approximately 5,000 sheets of paper, Cantrell said in response to UtahPolicy questions.
But it was not until Monday, 20 days later, that party officials came to the Capitol to get the material.
Once they showed up, they were informed that in fact about 31/2 boxes of material were actually put together by legislative staffers.
The first box was turned over, since the party had already paid $5,000 for it.
But the other material wasn’t, and won’t be, unless the Democrats pay for its collation and reproduction, said Cantrell.
Democratic Party officials didn’t immediately return telephone calls for comment.
But state party chairman Jim Dabakis has been outspoken in the past complaining that the GOP-controlled Legislature wasn’t 1) providing the redistricting emails, maps and other communications to the minority Democrats for free, since costs can be waived for the public good, and 2) had been dragging its feet over getting the material to the Democrats in the first place.
Here is a Salt Lake Tribune story from early January when Dabakis came to the Capitol to deliver the party’s $5,000 check in anticipation of getting all of the GRAMA-requested material.
Last year the state GOP also made a GRAMA request concerning redistricting material. It was a “much more targeted” request, said Cantrell. And the state GOP was charged around $2,000, which it paid before it got the material.
That request had to do with Democratic lawmakers’ actions concerning redistricting – the once-every-10-years process whereby the Legislature redraws, using new Census numbers, the U.S. House, state House and Senate and state School Board districts.
There wasn’t much explosive material in the GOP request, except that Democrats were working with some citizen groups concerned about the 2011 redistricting process.
In the end, the GOP-controlled Legislature achieved a relatively bipartisan results in redrawing state House and Senate districts.
In the special session last fall, most Democrats voted with Republicans in both the House and Senate in approving the new 75 House and 29 Senate districts.
But such was not the case in the drawing of four new U.S House districts.
There it was a partisan divide, with Democrats saying Republicans were drawing districts specifically aimed at harming U.S Rep. Jim Matheson, the only Democrat in the Utah congressional delegation.
In fact, Matheson later decided not to run in his old 2nd Congressional District. He jumped to the new 4th District and will face GOP nominee Mia Love, mayor of Saratoga Springs, in the November election.
Dabakis and other Democratic leaders believe GOP legislative leaders purposely drew U.S. House seats to harm Democrats; and the broad Democratic Party GRAMA request was aimed at getting proof of such dealings.
Cantrell justified the Legislature’s actions in refusing to turn over all 31/2 boxes to state Democrats Monday, saying that it would not be right to charge the State Republican Party the cost of its GRAMA request but then give Democrats a break on the actual labor and copying costs of its more-inclusive request.
The broad Democratic request, in hindsight, may seem overkill, said Cantrell.
For example, every online post that citizens made on the suggested redistricting maps was, of course, public information. The comments were sitting on the state’s redistricting web site.
But Cantrell, a social network guru, had such posts set up to automatically come to his smart phone as an email, and in turn he automatically re-copied those emails to House Chief Deputy Joe Pyrah and four or five legislative research and general counsel staffers working directly for the Redistricting Committee.
Cantrell said under his attorney’s requirements, all of those email redirects were printed out and put in the Democrats’ GRAMA request boxes.
But, of course, those emails were, and still are, available on the Legislature’s redistricting web site.
“Our attorney felt that just the fact that those emails were forwarded in and of itself is part” of the Democrats’ request, said Cantrell.
Cantrell said of the approximately 2,000 emails/documents (and 3,000 pages) that he himself turned over in the Democrats’ GRAMA request, maybe 50 were communications that had not already been made public in one form or another.
Response to Democratic Party Request