Editorial: Make digital public records available in digital format

Reporter-Herald (Loveland): A little more a year ago, the Fort Collins Coloradoan began a project on the salary increases at Colorado State University. So, a reporter requested a digital copy of the information, which the university kept. Rather than turn over the easily searchable version of the database, the university directed the newspaper to a 143-page document kept at the school’s library.

Legal? Yes.

Useful for students and the public in general to know how their tax dollars and fees were being spent at a time of increasing tuition and concern over a tight budget for higher education? Not at all.

That is why a year ago, state Sen. John Kefalas of Fort Collins introduced a bill that would require the custodians of public records to provide them in digital format where possible.

That bill was killed in committee, on a party line vote, due to concerns about cost recovery, the release of confidential information and clarity about what exactly would be required, or not, of records custodians. But even then, its opponents pledged to work with Kefalas on a bill they could accept.

This year, Kefalas is back with a similar bill, SB 17-040, written to make sure clerks and other keepers of public records aren’t legally required to do what technologically they can’t do, and aren’t burdened with extra costs, while opening the door to the information the public should be able to access.

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