Assault on Civic Engagement
Stop House Bill 1041 — A Public Information Tax
The most regressive public policy proposal to come out of the Colorado capitol in years is Senator Kefalas’s “citizens-be-damned” bill to impose significant fees on citizens seeking public information. It is a direct assault on the public’s right to be informed about activities of their goverment.
This video spoofs the bill’s impact, but it’s not hard to imagine the troublesome realities in your hometown.
Public Information Tax (User Pay) in Coloradoville
Research Fees — The New Tax
“Research fees” for public records are not authorized by Colorado statute. Most local governments do not currently charge such fees for records review. Bill 1041 mandates a drastic change to begin imposing research fees on citizens unless waived.
The default setting for cash-strapped governments such as school boards, state agencies, fire districts, and clerks’ offices will become “fee-based, user-pay records disclosure,” and waivers will become the exception rather than the rule. The press has written about the controversial bill, but HB1041 is being pushed by lawmakers faster than the public can catch up in order to protest. See recent articles in Colorado Independent,Boulder Weekly, and Colorado Statesman.
As noted in these articles, we have recently seen illicit research charges amounting to hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars assessed against average citizens who are trying to access information about what their local government is doing.
1041’s Fast-Track to Passage
The lawmakers are rushing to pass this “Public Information Tax” after heavy promotion of this bill by numerous lobbying organizations that have little interest in easy public access to their records — Colorado school boards, county clerks and recorders, county governments, city councils, district attorneys, county attorneys, etc.
“Taxpayers already pay for the labor and legal work that public records demand. The actual price, a temporary distraction of one or two employees in agencies of thousands, is merely the unquantifiable price of government in the sunshine.” (Kevin Cate Communications)
Senator Kefalas and his colleagues would tax citizens again through HB1041, and many cannot afford to pay.
Take Action Now
Please write Senator Kefalas to ask that he withdraw his bill, now due for passage by the Senate, having already passed the House.
Senators Vicki Marble and David Balmer voted “NO” on this obvious tax increase in the Senate Local Government Committee. Senators Gail Schwartz, Jeanne Nicholson, and John Kefalas voted “Yes.” Please ask them all to fight this bill on the Senate floor. (Email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org)
Please contact other interested citizens to ask them to fight this assault on civic engagement of the average citizen. Allowing only the affluent to have full access to public information is a regressive, nondemocratic policy that should never be seriously considered.