Legislative Update: March 22, 2019.

Legislative Update: March 22, 2019

Here’s the WCOG Bill Status Report as of Friday, March 22. No new bills affecting open government have been introduced since last week, and no more bills have died.

We’re in the phase of the session where bills are being considered in the chamber opposite of where they were introduced. The next cutoff date is April 3, by which bills must be voted out of committee in the opposite chamber or be considered dead for the session, unless they are necessary to implement the budget.

Four bills that we support are still alive, as are four that we’re opposing. Here’s the status of those bills:

  • HB 1667 Link (Public records request adminWCOG PRIORITY. Makes permanent the local government public records technology grant program, the attorney general’s local government consultation program, and the state archives training and consultation program created in HB 1594 (2017). Also extends the $1 document recording fee that funds those programs. Amends the public records performance metrics collected by JLARC to make necessary clarifications and simplifications. Public hearing held in the Senate State Government committee on March 22; not yet scheduled for executive session (vote).
  • HB 1537  Link (Sunshine committee recs) Modifies the exemption for applications for public employment to exclude applications for appointment to fill a vacancy in public office. Public hearing was held on March 22; not yet scheduled for executive session.
  • ESHB 1379  Link (Political communication Disclosures) Requires disclosure of the top five contributors who are NOT political committees, to prevent hiding the actual contributors under layers of committees. A public hearing was held in the Senate State Government committee on March 20; not yet scheduled for executive session.
  • SB 5221  Link (Political communication Disclosures) Requires disclosure of the top five contributors who are NOT political committees, to prevent hiding the actual contributors under layers of committees. Public hearing held in the House State Government committee on March 7. Executive session had been scheduled on March 11, but no action was taken.
  • SB 5787  Link (City, district public records) Allow agencies who have less than 30 office hours per week to delay providing even an initial response to a public records request until five days after the next meeting of the agency governing board, which could mean a delay of a month or more. Given the ease by which any agency can receive and give an initial response to a public records request by email these days, it makes no sense to allow them to delay the response by 30 days or more. Public hearing scheduled in House State Government committee on March 28.
  • SHB 1195  Link (Campaign finance) Sections 39 and 40 eviscerate the ability for citizens to take legal action on campaign finance violations when the PDC and Attorney General refuse to do so. Public hearing held in the Senate State Government Committee on March 20; not yet scheduled for executive session.
  • EHB 2020  Link (Employment investigations) Automatically permanently exempts from disclosure the names of victims or witnesses of public employee workplace unfair labor practices or discrimination from investigative reports, unless the victim or witness explicitly authorizes the release. Would make news reporting on such occurrences more difficult. Public hearing held in Senate State Government committee on March 22; not yet scheduled for executive session.
  • ESHB 1692  Link (Agency employees/harassment) Makes it more difficult for public employees who are accused of sexual harassment to obtain records they believe may clear their name. Applies a very broad definition of records “concerning an agency employee.” Public hearing held in Senate State Government committee on March 22; not yet scheduled for executive session.

We encourage you to contact your legislators and ask them to support the bills indicated in green above and to move them out of committee before April 3. We also encourage you to contact your legislators and ask them to oppose the bills above listed in red.

Here is our complete list of 2019 Legislative priorities.