Categorized | Featured Stories, Legal

HB10-1376: Colo. House Gives OK For State Courts To Take Over Systems

marroney
State Bill Photo: Jamie Cotten
Bob Roper, chief courts technology officer, and State Court Administrator Jerry Marroney were photographed speaking to people after a recent meeting about the proposed takeover of two computer systems.

STATE BILL COLORADO

The Colorado House tonight bucked a bipartisan attempt to delay a proposed state takeover of two Judicial Department computer systems operated currently under contract by information giant LexisNexis.

The effort failed by the narrowest of margins: 33 voting no, 32 voting yes.

The House, as part of the annual budget approval process, rejected an amendment proposed by Rep. Joe Rice, D-Littleton, that would have allowed the Lexis and state systems to operate simultaneously during a transition period.

Rice said that the operating plan for the two systems hadn’t been fully vetted by the state’s technology office. The transition period, he said, would allow legislators to be sure that the systems are fully operational at the time the Lexis systems are shut down.

Under the plan, the first system to be taken over provides electronic access to dockets and other records. It’s primarily used by background-screening companies to determine whether applicants have clean records.

The second system allows attorneys to file lawsuits and pleadings electronically.

The State Court Administrator’s Office has argued that Lexis won’t modify the systems to make enhancements in some areas that are regarded as less profitable or not profitable. Court officials insist they have the expertise to provide both systems, and they asked for 19 additional employees to operate them.

Democratic State Reps. Beth McCann and Claire Levy, both lawyers, joined Reps. Max Tyler and Dickey Lee Hullinghorst in arguing for the state takeover, which is expected to generate millions in additional income to the budget-strapped courts through search and filing fees now received by LexisNexis and subvendors, including BIS and Axciom Risk Management. The Joint Budget Committee initially requested the takeover, noting, in part, the severity of the cash crunch.

Joining Rice in arguing for the transition period were Rep. Bob Gardner, also a lawyer, and Rep. Jim Kerr. Both are Republicans. Kerr complained that the state has a poor track record when it comes to launching and running computer systems, and he urged the state to build in a fail-safe period through the transition.

In the end, the amendment failed by a non-recorded vote of legislators standing and sitting. An attempt to revive the amendment produced the recorded 32-33 vote. The full House later gave preliminary passage to the state’s budget, HB10-1376. A final vote is expected tomorrow. The bill moves to the Senate next week. If the two bodies disagree about how to handle the court computer systems, a conference committee will iron out the two versions for another round of approvals before the full budget package goes to Gov. Bill Ritter.

The takeover of the court systems has been heavily lobbied for the past two years. Joining the state in arguing for the takeover were lobbyists for Pasadena, Calif.-based Courthouse News Service, which advocates for reducing or dropping fees the state charges for access to court records on the day that they are filed. CNS makes money by selling new filings to law firms nationwide.

Either fighting for the takeover or advocating a transitional period were LexisNexis and BIS. Both also retained lobbyists.

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