Unlike a year ago, when state lawmakers improved access to public records, the 2018 session of the Colorado General Assembly was marked by the passage of legislation that will significantly hinder the public’s right to know if it’s signed into law.
Colorado judicial branch
After trying for three years to make the state judicial branch subject to the Colorado Open Records Act, Rep. Polly Lawrence finally notched a victory when a legislative committee passed an extremely limited version of her perennial bill.
For the third consecutive year, a committee of lawmakers discussed whether the administrative records of the state’s judicial branch should be subject to the Colorado Open Records Act. This time, the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee didn’t kill Rep. Polly Lawrence’s proposal as it did in 2016 and 2017. At least not yet.
State Rep. Polly Lawrence is trying once again to make the administrative records of Colorado’s judicial branch subject to the Colorado Open Records Act.
The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission, which investigates allegations of ethical misconduct involving public officials, is writing its own rules of access to public records that differ in many respects from the Colorado Open Records Act.
For Coloradans concerned about access to government information, the 2017 legislative session will be judged by what occurred on the 120th and final day.
A bill to modernize Colorado’s public records law survived a state House panel in a form closer to the way it was introduced earlier in the legislative session.
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.