LETTER: Kudos to those legislators who recognize that HB 1041 restricts press access to public records
Author: - February 11, 2013 - Updated: February 11, 2013
Dear Reps. Coram, Everett, Humphrey, Joshi, Nordberg, Saine, Sonnenberg, Szabo, Scott and Wright,
Thank you for taking the time to understand that HB13-1041 is a very flawed bill with its “public-be-damned” approach to the average citizen’s (and press’) rights to access their public records. Many of your colleagues did not take the time to understand the unintended (?) consequences of the bill and just who and what is behind 1041.
Both parties are pushing this bill through although the House Committee on Local Government was fully warned of its anti-citizen consequences. Today, Rep. Jared Wright was the only member of the Committee to vote against the obstruction and high cost that the bill brings to average citizens or small media concerns. (For example, attempting to avoid delivering an electronic election record that could be audited, a clerk denied the request for an emailed electronic file and printed out 5100 unusable sheets of paper and charged me $2,100. Copying the electronic file would have taken five minutes or less. Such obstructive behavior is frequent, and legitimized by Rep. Pettersen’s and Sen. Kefalas’ bill. There are scores of such stories, and the bill just passed 3rd reading will make them all the more commonplace.) It is regressive public policy designed to disenfranchise those who are not affluent enough to pay hundreds of dollars for the records they need, or hire attorneys.
No one denies that the bill will make it more difficult for the average citizen to obtain basic public records. An obstructive records custodian (and there are many) will be utilizing all the loopholes and ambiguities Rep. Pettersen has written into the bill so that small media outlets and citizens without attorneys and big bank accounts will not be able to access their records.
Yes, the Colorado Press Association has endorsed the bill, and actually seems to be driving its passage — presumably ignoring the needs of the small members who cannot afford to pay the high CORA prices and hire the attorneys. Let the small newspapers and broadcasters have an even tougher time getting the news and reporting on the activities of local government.
The (strike-below amendment) proposal has the support of other pro-transparency activists and average citizens, and it has been widely distributed since Jan. 26, before last Wednesday’s committee meeting where the sponsor’s complex bill with ambiguous and confusing language was unanimously passed by the House Local Government Committee, despite our warnings and this simple, concise proposal.
Rep. Wright took the time to understand the problems with the bill for the “little guy” and had the independence of thought to vote “no.” We also appreciate you standing up for the small media organizations and the average citizens.
We are disappointed that the following committee members heard the considerable problems with the bill and still voted “yes.” Some studied the problems and during the committee meeting formally requested that Rep. Pettersen meet with us to try to craft solutions, and she refused to do so. They rewarded her petulance with resounding support for her anti-transparency bill!
Members of the Local Government Committee voting YES, despite their knowledge of the problems: Fields, Singer, Exum, Vigil, Rankin, Navarro, Lebsock, Holbert, Ginal, Garcia, Gardner and Dore.
Thank you again, Rep. Wright, for attempting to expose the problems that harm your constituents and putting those citizens before party considerations and voting NO!