Transparency, media literacy measures in Colorado axed in purge of pre-pandemic state legislation

Two transparency bills died Tuesday during a purge of proposals left over from before the coronavirus pandemic forced a suspension of the 2020 Colorado legislative session.

Meeting for the first time since Mar. 11, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 to kill a bipartisan measure that would have required the state’s judicial branch to publish Colorado Supreme Court and Colorado Court of Appeals opinions online in a searchable format and at no cost to the public.

The committee also unanimously disposed of Senate Bill 20-179, which would have had each district attorney’s office collect and report demographic, charging and sentencing data on criminal defendants.

Sen. Pete Lee, the Colorado Springs Democrat who chairs the judiciary panel, blamed the impact of COVID-19. The state Capitol is once again open to the public, but visitors are required to wear masks, undergo temperature checks and respect social-distancing guidelines.

“Simply because of the exigencies of the pandemic and our inability to have full-blown hearings and people come in and testify one way or another, we’ve gone through a list of some 18 or 20 bills today and dispatched them, not as a commentary on the merits of the bills, but as a process because of the situation we’re in,” Lee said.

Because the virus has devastated government budgets, bills that carry a price tag are now especially vulnerable. The judicial opinions measure, House Bill 20-1130, was expected to cost $97,500 initially and about $5,000 annually thereafter. (Read more)