Notes from the Statehouse: more nicotine regs, lower open-records fees and less available state surveillance records

Time-limiting Passive Surveillance Records

Passive surveillance footage, like this clip below revealing a Denver sheriff’s deputy’s excessive use of force in a courtroom, can be critical to criminal justice proceedings. Still, as debates about NSA surveillance rage nationwide, State Representative Polly Lawrence of Roxborough Park asks how much archived supervision is too much?

With nearly a dozen co-sponsors in the state House, Lawrence’s bill to limit how long state agencies hold onto “passive surveillance footage” passed third reading in the House today.

Passive surveillance footage ranges from courtroom videotapes to traffic cameras that record license plate numbers.

Initially, the measure would have required governmental entities to destroy the footage within six months. That quick turn-around raised concerns among officials in certain sectors, particularly those working in criminal justice, so Lawrence put together an amendment.

“I worked with the sheriffs, the police chiefs, the district attorneys and victims groups and we extended the retention to one year for agencies to have access to their surveillance records,” said Lawrence.

After a year, those records will still be accessible, but a records custodian will take note of who accessed them and why. The amended bill would require that surveillance records be deleted within three years.

“It’s recognizing that we do need some surveillance for security reasons and for victims to be able to get the justice they deserve, but I don’t think the government should be surveilling its citizens and retaining that information indefinitely,” said Lawrence.

HB 1152 will now go to the Senate.

No Nicotine for the Under-18 Crowd

Even smokers don’t like the idea of minors getting hooked on nicotine. Today, a bill (SB 18) to keep minors off e-cigarettes and other ‘fun’ nicotine laced products such as toothpicks passed third reading in the state Senate.

“Nicotine products can be flavored, inexpensive and easy to conceal, making them attractive to kids,” Senator Matt Jones, D-Louisville, a sponsor of the bill, said in a release.

“Nicotine is a harmful and highly addictive substance. Ambiguities in our current law allow minors to buy nicotine products and this bill will close that loophole – keeping Colorado kids safer and healthier,” added Senator Jeanne Nicholson, D-Gilpin County, the bill’s co-sponsor.

The measure now heads to the House.

Making Open Records Affordable

Agencies in Colorado have been known to charge ultra-high fees for Colorado Open Records Requests. For example, Arapahoe County charged more than $16,000 to property owners who wanted access to emails about a stream improvement project.

Steep open records expenses motivated Thornton Representative Joe Salazar to propose HB 1193. The measure, which passed in the House today, puts a $32 cap on the hourly fee an agency can charge to produce records.  That, Salazar noted, is still several times the minimum wage.

The measure will now move to the Senate.