State lawmakers could substantially reform the Colorado Open Records Act during the 2017 legislative session.
Will 2016 be remembered as the year we realized just how much our democracy depends on an informed citizenry? The fake news epidemic was one of many issues the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition highlighted in 2016 or wrote about on its blog.
After months of work by stakeholders, proposed 2017 legislation is taking shape that would modernize the Colorado Open Records Act and provide an alternative to litigation for resolving CORA disputes. Despite the progress, however, a formidable roadblock surfaced when the Colorado Attorney General’s office announced that it will not support the most recent bill draft.
Immediately after a bill to modernize the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) died in a Senate committee last session, the Secretary of State’s office offered to bring stakeholders together to work on a 2017 proposal agreeable to both government entities and records requesters. That effort is well underway this summer and has focused on three main topics.
On matters affecting public information, the General Assembly did little during this year’s session to improve access. The most significant legislative win for government transparency doesn’t actually affect governments.
Sen. John Kefalas and Rep. Dan Pabon deserve thanks for their valiant, but unsuccessful, effort to guarantee the public’s right to inspect its records. Their bill, SB 16-037, would have clarified that Coloradans enjoy the right to obtain copies of public records in the same digitized format in which government maintains those records.
Aurora’s response to a reporter’s records request illustrates a common problem facing journalists and anyone else in Colorado who wishes to analyze public records kept in spreadsheets or databases. Too often, they get PDFs or stacks of paper instead. This makes analysis difficult or sometimes impossible.
Opposition from a state agency and several local governments doomed proposed legislation intended to modernize Colorado’s open-records law by requiring that public records kept in database formats be available to the public in similar formats.
Colorado lawmakers are taking steps to formalize a 2½-year-old pilot program that encourages state government agencies to “streamline access to public data” by making datasets available online in machine-readable formats.
The private emails flap was one of many transparency-related stories we highlighted in 2015 or broke ourselves.