In recent years Colorado has laid claims to leading the country in many areas: Fitness, marijuana use and the number of certified SCUBA divers per capita are just three that come to mind.
But the landlocked state also currently holds the title as having the highest allowable per-page amount that government agencies can charge for public documents.
At a maximum amount of $1.25 a page for copies, Colorado’s closest competitor is New Mexico, which can charge a maximum of $1 a page. And Colorado law, passed 38 years ago when high-speed copiers were still a novelty, provides agencies to charge for additional staff search and copy feesAdding confusion, the amounts that government agencies charge for public information varies widely. The city of Colorado Springs, for example, currently charges 50 cents a page, though its police department bills at $1 a page. Many other entities, including the University of Colorado and the Colorado Secretary of State, charge the full $1.25 a page. The Colorado Supreme Court: has a you-do-it copy machine that charges 25 cents a page.
“It costs 7 cents (a page) at Kinko’s. Not 75 cents, not 50 cents, not $1.25. Seven cents,” noted Jenny Flanagan, executive director of the government watchdog group Colorado Common Cause, in a comprehensive report that was published last October by the Associated Press.
In addition to the inconsistencies of the costs of obtaining public information between Colorado and other states, the AP report also detailed a vast disparity of basic access to public information in Colorado – from health department inspections of restaurants to e-mail correspondences between government officials to meeting minutes from planning commissions.
Which leads us to an upcoming bill that is being introduced by State Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany and House Rep. Anne McGihon. Senate Bill 45 would drastically slash the amounts that government agencies could charge for copies, printouts or photographs – to 10 cents a page.
BRB’s Public Records Blog, which tracks public records nationally, reports that the Colorado proposal relies heavily on existing state law in Texas, “which allows governments to charge 10 cents a page for records, and lets agencies charge staff time if the number of pages is more than 50.”
Cara DeGette is a longtime Colorado journalist and a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.