An 18-month push to update Colorado’s open-records law for the digital age culminated in the final passage of a bill that clarifies the public’s right to copies of electronic government records in useful file formats that permit analysis of information in those records.
Legislation to modernize Colorado’s open-records law underwent a significant makeover with little more than a day left in the 2017 session.
A bill to modernize Colorado’s public records law survived a state House panel in a form closer to the way it was introduced earlier in the legislative session.
Senate Bill 17-040 is about clarifying the public’s right to obtain digitized government records in useful file formats that make it easier to analyze the information contained in those records. But as passed by the Colorado Senate, the bill is now about other things as well.
The Colorado Senate endorsed a heavily amended version of the open-records modernization bill, adding a broad exemption to bar the disclosure of records that “could endanger public safety or the operation of critical infrastructure.”
The open-records modernization bill survived the Senate Appropriations Committee, but lawmakers retained amendments that could let governments withhold some records now available for public inspection.
A bill to modernize Colorado’s open-records law cleared its first legislative hurdle, but lawmakers added amendments that could be broadly interpreted to allow the withholding of some records currently available for public inspection.
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.
State lawmakers could substantially reform the Colorado Open Records Act during the 2017 legislative session.
Will 2016 be remembered as the year we realized just how much our democracy depends on an informed citizenry? The fake news epidemic was one of many issues the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition highlighted in 2016 or wrote about on its blog.