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.
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.
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.
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.