The 2021 Colorado legislative session produced a mixed bag of good and not-so-good developments for those concerned about government transparency.
Rep. Mike Weissman
State legislation designed to reduce collateral consequences for people with criminal records would hinder the ability of news organizations to identify systemic problems in the criminal justice system and hold public officials accountable, journalists told Colorado lawmakers.
State lawmakers voted down a bill to allow civil lawsuits in state courts against Colorado governments for violations of rights enumerated in the Colorado Constitution, including free speech and a free press.
A bipartisan bill in the Colorado legislature would require the state’s judicial branch to publish higher-court opinions online in a searchable format and at no cost to the public.
A bill making its way through the Colorado legislature would significantly expand our knowledge about who is incarcerated in county jails throughout the state, also providing the public and policymakers with a statewide picture.
Following an hour-long floor debate, the Colorado House gave preliminary approval to legislation that would open records on completed police internal affairs investigations.
An amended bill endorsed by the Colorado House no longer opens records on police internal affairs files, but essentially encourages their disclosure once an investigation is complete.
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.
By mandating that searchable digital records must be provided in a searchable format and sortable digital records must be produced in a sortable digital form, Colorado joins some 15 other states whose open records laws so require. This huge advance in government transparency certainly deserves celebration.
Ending what Sen. John Kefalas called “the most incredible journey,” Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill that modernizes the Colorado Open Records Act by clarifying the public’s right to copies of digital public records.