Journalists say Senate Bill 17-040 generally seems to be working as intended, even if some records custodians have to be reminded about the law change and some have taken much longer than three working days to fill requests. The sample size is small, but early tests of the new law are encouraging.
By mandating that searchable digital records must be provided in a searchable format and sortable digital records must be produced in a sortable digital form, Colorado joins some 15 other states whose open records laws so require. This huge advance in government transparency certainly deserves celebration.
Legislation to modernize Colorado’s open-records law underwent a significant makeover with little more than a day left in the 2017 session.
For half a century, public records laws have been indispensable tools for disproving “alternative facts” and getting to the truth about government spending, activities and decision making. But in our state, the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) is showing its age, especially regarding access to the myriad records maintained in spreadsheets and databases by state agencies, cities, counties and other taxpayer-funded entities covered by the law.
The private emails flap was one of many transparency-related stories we highlighted in 2015 or broke ourselves.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have no problem getting public information in a format that allows for searching, sorting and aggregating. Too often, however, database records are released in a format that makes analysis difficult, or they’re not released at all.
Colorado State University has taken a hard-line position and has steadfastly refused to make available to The Coloradoan a database of employee salaries in the same manner in which CSU makes, maintains, and keeps those records.
Plenty of evidence suggests that CSU’s student government is subject to the Sunshine Law and, therefore, a reporter for the student newspaper should not have been barred from a hearing to impeach a student senator.