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.
A Colorado House bill is intended to encourage records requesters and government entities to resolve disputes through mediation rather than in the court system.
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.