Yep, we’re up there at the State Capitol too, alongside lobbyists for every industry and interest you can think of. When the legislative session kicks off, our legislators will tackle many issues, including some that directly impact Coloradans’ ability to participate in democracy. Here are a few issues that may come up:
Money and Politics
When we think about the impacts of Citizens United, we typically think about Super PACs, millions—and billions—of dollars being raised, and the endless ads in the presidential campaigns. Increasingly, though, big money—often not disclosed—is impacting local elections as well, as we saw in the school board recall elections in Jefferson and Douglas counties. Will the General Assembly take up legislation to require transparency about the money being spent in school board races?
Colorado was an early leader in open government, passing the Sunshine Laws by initiative in the early seventies. Since then, though, we’ve had a tough time keeping up with the times. Technology has changed, but our open records law hasn’t. Let’s say you want to see your town’s budget. You’d expect to get something like an excel document. What you often get is a pdf document that was printed, had the personal information crossed out, then scanned and sent to you by email. Analyzing the data in the budget becomes a huge hassle, because you have to manually take the information from the pdf and put it into your own spreadsheet. If governments have the data in a format like Excel and can redact the personal information digitally (for example, deleting a column), they should do so and share it with the public in Excel. This is common sense, but we expect a lively debate.
At a time when many other states are making it more difficult for citizens to vote, Colorado has a nationally recognized election model that gives voters convenient options for participation. As the 2016 election approaches, we’ll be working with the Secretary of State, county clerks, and other community partners to make sure that voters can register and vote without barriers. We’ll also oppose legislation that would make it more difficult for citizens to vote. Legislators have already announced proposals to require photo ID to register and vote, a policy that would disproportionately impact seniors, voters with disabilities, communities of color, and student voters.
Ethics in Government
In 2006, Colorado voters overwhelmingly called for stronger ethics with the passage of Amendment 41. Now, ten years later, the Independent Ethics Commission needs additional staff to do its job of enforcing our ethics laws. The IEC also needs independent legal counsel, rather than relying on the Attorney General’s office, which also represents government officials involved in ethics proceedings. Legislators are working on legislation to address these issues and give the IEC the tools it needs to function effectively.
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Office: Colorado Common Cause