Rep. Rosemary Marshall, involved in a legal fight with a conservative news website over whether portions of a memo should be released to the public, is considering a bill to modify public-records law.
Under current law, drafts of proposed bills are considered "work product" and are not public records. Marshall said Friday that she is considering a bill to "clarify" that the protection also extends to when portions of a proposed bill are included in a memo or shared with an outside party.
"We need to have the opportunity to dialogue with appropriate stakeholders about public-policy changes," Marshall, D-Denver, said.
The issue strikes close to Marshall because she is in litigation with operators of Facethestate.com over just such a circumstance. Brad Jones, the site's managing editor, is seeking the release of a memo that contains excerpts from a bill Marshall considered last year to allow state workers to form employee-bargaining partnerships.
Marshall had sent the memo to a lawyer in California, who forwarded it to Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Jones said.
The bill wasn't introduced. Ritter subsequently signed a controversial executive order granting employees bargaining-partnership rights.
"This would help us find out what legislative leadership, as well as the governor's office, really wanted to do before they had to scale it back," Jones said.
Jones contends that the entire memo is a public document because Marshall shared it with someone outside the Capitol.
"She's basically saying if the contents of a draft bill end up anywhere in state government, even outside the legislature, that can't be looked at," Jones said. "That I think is a significant change in the law."