Columns » Public Eye

There oughta be a law ...


We're a couple of weeks into Colorado's 2007 legislative session, and two things are certain: The Democrats have renewed their vow to work in a "bipartisan spirit," and the Republicans would probably be really happy about that if they held the majority.

Any majority.

Another thing is certain, as always: The ideas from 100 lawmakers, all crammed together under the Golden Dome in Denver for four months, are bound to be outrageous, absurd and, occasionally, brilliant. If the lawmakers are really smart, they'll come up with clever and catchy names for their proposals, like the Dr. Laura bill, or the Make My Day law, or the Anna Nicole Smith bill.

Which brings us to the Driving While Distracted bill, already dead in the water. Rep. Paul Weissmann (D-Louisville) had the idea to crack down on any driver applying mascara, chomping deliriously on a burrito, or getting into a cell-phone shrieking match with a spouse. Frankly, it's a good idea to crack down on such miscreants.

Realistically, isn't every accident caused by a distracted driver?

Also DOA is the Human Microchip Implant bill. Everybody was snickering at this one, including former Colorado lawmaker-turned-political consultant Rob Fairbanks, who, in a widely quoted e-mail, wondered, "Is this a problem? Do we have gangs of post-apocalyptic Terminator-style cyborgs roaming the streets of Colorado implanting citizens with microchips?"

The sponsor, Rep. Mary Hodge (D-Brighton), abandoned it, saying the bill needs more research. And perhaps it does. But the lawmaker is not, as Fairbanks might say, merely gazing at invisible black helicopters. At least 17 other states have considered microchip bans, and last year Wisconsin became the first state to implement one. Such microchips have been used to aid security and retrieve hospital information. But the novelty may gloss over legitimate privacy and human-numbering concerns that are being raised by civil libertarians.

The aforementioned Weissmann has another bill sure to rile the kill 'em crowd. He wants to repeal the death penalty in Colorado, and use projected cost savings to create a statewide cold case unit to solve murders.

Believe it or not, Colorado does not have such an investigative team. Indeed, if it weren't for a handful of committed retired law enforcement volunteers, El Paso County would have no cold case unit, either. But we'll just see how far that one goes, even in a Democrat-controlled Legislature.

Meanwhile, many members of our El Paso County Republican delegation seem to have amnesia over last summer's special session, which saw Colorado adopt the most sweeping illegal immigration laws of any state in the union. This year, several Republicans are pushing for more. Good luck with that, superminorities.

Which brings us, finally, to Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, righteously representing all of us lovers of government transparency and public records.

McElhany is our hero this year, and this is why: Some 38 years ago, back when copiers were still a novelty, Colorado embraced a law that allows government agencies to charge up to $1.25 a page for copies of public records. That's right: Colorado is No. 1 in the nation in charging for information that belongs to you and me.

Copies at, say, Kinko's cost 7 cents a page. But does that stop Colorado agencies government from charging the max for police reports or planning commission agendas or court documents? Of course not.

The amounts vary wildly. The city of Colorado Springs charges 50 cents a page (less if you act nice), and the police department up to $1 a page. The University of Colorado system often goes for the max $1.25 a page, as does the Colorado Secretary of State's business division. The Colorado Supreme Court has a 25-cent do-it-yourself copier.

McElhany is proposing establishing a fee, much like what's in place in Texas, that would slash the per-page amount to 10 cents a page, plus refine the amount that can be charged for staff time spent retrieving the info.

Now that's a law we won't even have to learn to love.

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast