DENVER (AP) – Public-records access in Colorado is close to getting an expansion – but state lawmakers are resisting efforts to make it cheaper to get public records.
A measure that cleared the state Senate on an unrecorded voice vote Monday would make it easier to acquire public records without visiting agencies in person to review them. The bill also bans fees for records that are shared electronically.
The bill is a response to complaints that some government agencies unfairly enforce a provision in current records law that can require in-person visits before public records are shared. Some government watchdogs complain that provision is used to block records without a cross-state – or in some cases cross-country – trip to pick them up.
“We want to be as transparent as possible,” said Democratic Sen. Rollie Heath of Boulder, one of the bill’s supporters.
One more Senate vote is required before the bill returns to the House, which approved the measure in a slightly different form.
Republicans tried and failed to make the bill go even farther by limiting fees that government agencies can charge to produce public records.
Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said that while government agencies are limited to charging 25 cents per page, they sometimes add research fees of up to $75 an hour.
“I don’t call that nominal,” Lundberg said. “I call that prohibitive.”
Research fees are inconsistently applied and should be set in law, argued Republican Sen. Vicki Marble of Fort Collins.
“We have to not let agencies themselves go and interpret what they deem reasonable,” Marble argued.
Democrats rejected the GOP fee amendments. The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. John Kefalas of Fort Collins, said fees may need legislative attention, but that his measure was aimed only at transmitting the records. Kefalas asked lawmakers to review fees later.
“Believe me, this issue will not be put to rest,” Kefalas said.
LINK: House Bill 1041
– By Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
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