LETTER: Colorado Advocates Demand a More Transparent Legislative Process
November 23, 2020
Governor Polis and Members of the Colorado General Assembly:
Since the founding of our country, Indigenous and people of color have been left out of America’s democratic process. The worldwide pandemic and the economic fallout from this crisis have only served to exacerbate the harm of our exclusionary democratic process. We invite you today to make our state different by doing more to include all Coloradans when making decisions impacting our communities.
We would like to bring to your attention our concerns regarding the lack of transparency and responsiveness that plagued the final weeks of the 2020 legislative session. While we appreciate your efforts to ensure our state responded timely to the COVID-19 crisis and completed critical legislative business, the move towards virtually lawmaking resulted in the silencing of our state’s most marginalized communities.
To protect democracy and encourage public participation in the legislative process, both during the COVID-19 public health crisis and moving forward, we are urging you to fully implement the following elements:
- Accessible opportunities for engagement during public hearings and informational forums that adhere to public health guidelines.
- Accessible technology: Remote public access to public hearings and forums should take all steps possible to eliminate technological barriers that limit accessibility for some, including (but not limited to) providing closed captioning services and/or ASL interpreters, and an option to participate in the hearing via teleconference.
- Recordings: The public should have the ability to watch all or any portion of a public hearing or forum in real time or if necessary in a recording, after the fact.
- Testimony: Clear instructions should be provided on the General Assembly site for how to sign-up for and provide and options should include:
- Video or teleconference testimony: People wishing to testify at public hearings should have the ability to testify via teleconference or videoconference and respond to questions in real time.
- Pre-recorded testimony: People should also be afforded the opportunity to submit recorded video testimony for viewing during the public hearing.
- Written testimony: People should be permitted to submit written testimony to the same extent prior to COVID-19
- Public health guidelines: If public health guidelines limit the number of people able to be present at an in person public hearing or forum, the Colorado General Assembly should move the public hearing or forum to a larger venue to allow for full public participation.
- Open and transparent Committee meetings that adhere to public health guidelines.
- Online availability: The public should have the ability to watch all or any portion of a public Committee meeting, including discussion and debate, in real time or in a recording, after the fact.
- Timely sharing of legislative language: The public should receive legislative language and amendments under discussion at the beginning of the Committee meeting.
- Remote or alternative voting: If the legislature adopts an alternative method of voting, it must be implemented in such a way as to preserve a clear and accessible public record and to ensure the participation of a majority of the members of the committee or body, so that voices of the people elected by the people are not left out.
- Full public access to legislative documents and materials.
- Publicly accessible records: The Colorado General Assembly should compile, publish, and make accessible all public records for any legislative session operating under the continuity of government rules to the same extent that such records would be accessible but for COVID-19.
- Transcripts of public activities: Transcripts of public legislative events, including Committee meetings and public hearings, should be made available in a timely manner. Any votes that are held should be recorded as a roll call vote and shared publicly in a timely manner.
- Sufficient public notice of legislative activities.
- Advance notice: The continuity of government plan should provide at least as much advance notice of public proceedings, including Committee meetings, votes, and public hearings, as would otherwise be given but for COVID-19. This should be a minimum of 48 hours public notice.
The COVID-19 pandemic provides the General Assembly with a new opportunity to make the legislative process more accessible to its constituents. Now that you have had time to accommodate for the public health threats of COVID-19, we urge you to implement the above recommendations prior to the commencement of the 2021 legislative session.
We must do more to make sure that the people of our state are truly served and heard by you, our state’s leaders. Thank you.
Karla Gonzales Garcia, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity & Reproductive Rights
Patricia Ferrero, Protégete
Andrea Chiriboga-Flor, 9 to 5 Colorado
Raquel Lane-Arellano, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition
Alejandro Ortega, Padres & Jóvenes Unidos