Our view: Limiting your right to know
The Colorado House Local Government Committee Tuesday passed Senate Bill 69, which would allow counties to discontinue identifying their employees in financial public notices published in newspapers, on a 7-4 vote.
It was the second time the committee voted on the bill. The first time, on March 8, the legislation was rejected on a 6-5 vote.
However, the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Greg Brophy, asked that the bill be considered again.
The Wray Republican said SB 69 is an attempt to strike a balance between the public’s right to know and an individual’s privacy.
This issue isn’t about privacy.
It’s about trust and confidence in government.
It’s about a proposal that would create more separation between government and the public. It would create yet another obstacle for people to have access to government information.
When public officials, at any level of government, seek to make it harder to access government information, it creates skepticism about the actions of those officials and cynicism about government in general.
Are individuals elected to office to protect the interests of government employees, or are they elected to protect the interests of the public?
This bill is about public employees who are paid with public funds. Why should it be difficult to obtain this information?
March 13 to18 is Sunshine Week, a national project initiated by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, to emphasize the importance of open government.
Gov. Bill Owens signed a proclamation observing Sunshine Week. Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald signed a commendation to ASNE and the Colorado Press Association in celebration of Sunshine Week.
It’s ironic that we are celebrating Sunshine Week and the House Local Government Committee passed a bill that allows local government to limit information to the public.
It isn’t compatible with the concept of open government.
SB 69, introduced in January by Sen. Lois Tochtrop, passed the Senate on Feb. 14. The Thornton Democrat sponsored a similar bill last year when she was a member of the House. That bill was defeated in a House floor vote.
The House should do the same again this year.
If SB 69 does pass the House, the governor should veto the bill.
If this legislation becomes law, its implication is obvious: Another piece of government information is harder to obtain. And its message is obvious as well: Politics are more important than the public.
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