Senate advances revived but weaker school board transparency measure

Update:  The Senate gave final approval to SB 14-182 on Wednesday, April 23, on an 18-17 party-line vote.

By Jeffrey A. Roberts
CFOIC Executive Director

A second attempt at boosting school board transparency this session won initial approval in the Colorado Senate on Tuesday.

SB 14-182, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mary Hodge of Brighton, is a weaker version of an unsuccessful House bill that would have required the electronic recording of all portions of school board executive sessions, including attorney-client discussions.

The new measure merely adds the requirement that executive session minutes reflect the amount of time spent discussing each topic, in addition to a broad description of each topic as required under current law. The information would have to be posted on a board’s web site, or published some other way, no more than 10 days after the minutes are approved.

As amended Tuesday, SB 14-182 also would require that any electronic recordings of school board executive sessions be kept for at least 90 days.

“This is a reasonable compromise to make sure the public is informed, that there is transparency around what is happening behind closed doors,” said Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood.

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Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood
The Colorado Channel

Both school board executive session bills were introduced because of a perception that some boards of education have held secret meetings in violation of Colorado’s Sunshine Law.

Calling the latest effort “an extreme measure of micromanagement,” Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, argued that legislation is unnecessary.

“If you don’t trust your school board members then elect different school board members,” Renfroe said. “If you think they’re abusing what they’re doing, that’s what the process is to fix this.”

Commission on Affordable Health Care

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 187, which would create a new commission to study and make recommendations for controlling health-care costs. Under the bill, up to five of of the commission’s 12 members could meet to review data without having to comply with the state Open Meetings Law.

Follow the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition on Twitter @CoFOIC. Like CFOIC’s Facebook page. Visit CFOIC’s legislature page to track bills in the General Assembly that could affect the flow or availability of information in Colorado.

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