Editorial: Three bills to watch

From The Durango Herald:  Colorado’s state Legislature reconvened Wednesday, and while this session does not promise to be as boisterous or controversial as the last, it should have highlights. Among those are three bills that, taken together, amount to a bipartisan push to bolster the state’s commitment to defending freedom of information.

One would strengthen Colorado’s shield law for reporters. Another would set an expiration date for data from surveillance photos. The third would make fees for research and information retrieval from government agencies uniform statewide. All three should be approved.

(There also is a bill for a federal shield law in the U.S. Senate, co-sponsored by, among others, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.)

On the surface, these can seem like trivial or esoteric issues. They are not.

The measure addressing photos goes straight to the question (see: National Security Agency) as to the distinction between legitimate surveillance and nosy rummaging. Sponsored by Douglas County Republican state Rep. Polly Lawrence, it would require that any images taken by government-operated surveillance cameras be destroyed after six months.

That should allow plenty of time for the proper authorities to use the images as intended. What it would prevent is establishment of a permanent database showing who was where when without any associated crime or threat. And while that might seem paranoid or futuristic, it is, or soon will be, possible.

The bill about fees is from state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton. It would establish uniform statewide rules for how much state government agencies could charge for research and copying public records. As things stand now, there is no consistency from one office to another, only a hodgepodge of judicial precedents and local rules. And with that, a given agency effectively can limit public access by charging exorbitant fees, treat records requests as a profit center or waste taxpayers’ resources by accommodating any and all requests at no charge.

Visit The Durango Herald for more.

Subscribe to Our Blog