Washington Lawmakers Exempt Themselves From Public Records Act

CREDIT: WADOT

LISTEN

In the space of 20 minutes Friday, Washington lawmakers voted to exempt themselves from the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act. The Senate first passed the bill and then sent it to the House where it was immediately taken up.

Republican state Rep. Matt Shea praised the measure in a speech on the House floor.

“This bill very simply to me is going to expand and reveal lobbyist communications which is something I think we all agree with,” Shea said. “And currently that is not disclosable. We are expanding transparency today.”

The bill will require lawmakers to release their calendars, some emails and final investigative reports. But many other records would be exempt, including allegations of misconduct against lawmakers.

Legislative leaders introduced the bill this week and fast-tracked it to the floor without going through the normal legislative process.

The bill passed the state Senate 41 to 7 and the state House 83 to 14. It now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee who has not said if he will sign it, but who has previously said lawmakers should be able to function under the same rules as other government entities.

The bill has an emergency clause so that it would go into effect immediately upon being signed. That would also preclude a referendum effort to repeal the law.

Democratic state Rep. Gerry Pollet said the bill is a “first step” toward rewriting the public records rules for the Legislature. No one spoke in opposition to the bill on the House floor. However, open government advocates and newspaper representatives have decried the bill as quashing transparency.

“It’s breathtaking to have a bill show up this late in session on this most important issue and for the Legislature to step into an ongoing lawsuit at this moment,” said Rowland Thompson, a lobbyist for the newspaper industry, at a work session earlier this week.

In January, Thurston County Judge Chris Lanese ruled that state lawmakers are subject to the state’s public disclosure laws and have been in violation by not releasing records requested by reporters. Lawyers for the Legislature immediately moved to appeal that decision to the Washington Supreme Court.

As written, the new law would only require lawmakers to release communications and calendars after July 1, 2018.

Copyright 2018 Northwest News Network

Related Stories:

Washington Secretary Of State

Are Washington Republicans About To Lose Their Nearly 60-Year Lock On The Secretary Of State’s Office?

Potential candidates to replace Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman are already stepping forward after Wyman, a Republican, announced she will resign next month to take an election security position with the Biden administration. Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, will appoint Wyman’s replacement. That could spell the end of a nearly six decades Republican lock on the secretary of state’s office. Continue Reading Are Washington Republicans About To Lose Their Nearly 60-Year Lock On The Secretary Of State’s Office?

Read More »
The Washington State Patrol and Department of Transportation closed I-5 near Tukwila and re-routed traffic off the freeway after a semi crash on Wednesday, October 20, 2021. Combined, the two agencies lost more than 550 workers as a result of Gov. Jay Inslee's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Will The Passes Get Plowed? Impact Of Vaccine Mandate Firings On State Services Not Yet Clear

Roughly nine in 10 employees of the state of Washington are now vaccinated against COVID-19. Gov. Jay Inslee considers that a huge success and a win for public health. But his vaccine mandate has also led to the departure of hundreds of state employees. Now there are questions about the implications for some state services. Continue Reading Will The Passes Get Plowed? Impact Of Vaccine Mandate Firings On State Services Not Yet Clear

Read More »
At a news conference on October 14, Gov. Jay Inslee said the state was following science and the law when deciding whether to accommodate employees who received medical or religious exemptions to his COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Unvaccinated Washington State Employees Face Their Last Day On The Job

Monday is the deadline for Washington state employees, healthcare and long-term care workers and those working in the education field to be fully vaccinated. Those who aren’t could be out of a job by day’s end. Some of the state employees who face termination got exemptions, but not a workplace accommodation so they could stay on the payroll. Continue Reading Unvaccinated Washington State Employees Face Their Last Day On The Job

Read More »