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The point is that accessing and reviewing public records is a part of our everyday life. But you’d be mistaken if you thought Washington(State) lawmakers’ overwhelming support of Senate Bill 6617 targeted journalists. Lawmakers are stripping you of your power as a citizen, too. The same public records tools we use to uncover fraud, government misconduct, and other sorts of questionable behavior are laws that are available to every Washington citizen.
Your elected leaders aren’t required to pick up the phone when you call. There’s no rule forcing them to meet with you at your request. They don’t have to answer your questions, or even give you the time of day. But, by law, they must provide you with certain public records under Washington’s Public Records Act.
This law is one way that any citizen can force their government to give them answers, and Washington’s state lawmakers have just voted to shut the public’s access to their records down.
Gov. Jay Inslee must decide by Thursday whether to veto or let stand a bill exempting the state Legislature from Washington’s Public Records Act. Inslee has received hundreds of messages urging him to veto it.
Legislators say the bill is a step toward more transparency. Critics say it’s a big step backward and an assault on open government. Public outcry was swift and fierce. News organizations throughout the state have condemned the bill. The News Tribune’s editorial board called it a “snow job.” The Seattle Times called it “a slap in the face” to the public. The Spokane Spokesman-Review described the bill as “an appalling display of legislative hubris.”
Are legislators telling the truth about the controversial public records bill they just passed? Not so much Read more here: www.thenewstribune.com...=cpy
"The Legislature should be leading on transparency, not giving the impression that it's hiding stuff," he said.
NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. The legislature intends to clarify that the legislature, like the judiciary, is a branch of government rather than an "agency" of the state as that term is used in chapter 42.56 RCW, the public records act, and that the legislature is subject to separate disclosure requirements arising from its representative duties. Beginning in 1986, the supreme court of Washington has ruled that the public records act did not apply to the judicial branch, because the judiciary is a branch, not an agency, because there is a common law right of access to court records, and because the public records act did not specifically include courts or court files. The state supreme court has since adopted comprehensive rules to provide public access to case records and administrative records of the judicial branch. Similarly, the state Constitution requires the legislative houses to maintain journals, and to publish those journals, except such parts as require secrecy. During the essential legislative acts of floor deliberation and voting, the state Constitution requires the doors of the chambers to remain open, except where the public welfare requires secrecy. The presiding officers must sign legislation in open session. The state Constitution further requires the secretary of state to maintain records of official acts of the legislature. In addition, the state Constitution directs the legislative houses to adopt rules to govern their own proceedings. To protect the independence of legislative deliberations against interference by the other branches, the state Constitution provides that legislators are immune from civil process during the legislative session, and they are likewise immune from any civil or criminal liability for words spoken in debate. As John Adams explained in the Massachusetts state Constitution of 1780, "The freedom of deliberation, speech and debate, in either house of the legislature, is so essential to the rights of the people, that it cannot be the foundation of any accusation or prosecution, action or complaint, in any other court or place whatsoever." Correspondingly, the state Constitution also protects the right of the people to petition and communicate with their elected representatives. For these reasons, the legislature intends to establish records disclosure obligations that preserve the independent deliberation of the people's representatives while providing access to legislative public records. The legislative records disclosure obligations in this act establish continued public access to specified records of the legislature as originally codified in the public records act in 1995, as well as additional records as provided in this act