- Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2014

DENVER (AP) - A Colorado House committee has passed a bill capping hourly search fees to access public records at $32.

The Denver Post reported Thursday (https://tinyurl.com/lf6qb3q) that the bill now goes to the House floor. In debate Wednesday in the Local Government Committee, the Post reports, Democrats and Republicans agreed fees were too high. Fees as high as $190 an hour have been reported.

But concerns were expressed that small communities lacked staff and legal and other resources to fulfill requests with capped fees.

Rep. Joe Salazar, a Thornton Democrat, defended his proposed standardized fees bill for Colorado Open Records Act requests involving several hours of research. High fees charged by state agencies have hindered citizens from accessing public records and information, he said.

“There is a public need for consistency for how public entities are charging people, and without regulation it can be out of reach for many members of the public,” Salazar said.

“Ultimately these are the public’s records, and the fees shouldn’t be so expensive that they become a deterrent and people give up,” said Jeff Roberts, executive director of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition.

The bill proposes that a custodial fee for requested public records must be nominal in comparison with time spent responding - and that it cannot exceed three times the state’s minimum wage, or $24.

An amendment by Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, struck the nominal language from the bill and increased the standardized cap to four times the minimum wage, or $32.

Several organizations oppose the bill.

“I think there is a difference in the ability of a rural community to process these requests and larger ones,” said Dianna Orf, spokeswoman for the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado.

Representatives from the University of Colorado and the Colorado Municipal League also opposed the bill.

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Information from: The Denver Post, https://www.denverpost.com

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Information from: The Denver Post, https://www.denverpost.com


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