Legislative Task Force Convenes on Public Records Issues.

Legislative Task Force Convenes on Public Records Issues

Washington Coalition for Open Government President Toby Nixon was appointed to the 15-member Legislative Task Force on Public Records, which is charged with examining and potentially drafting relevant legislation before the 2019 session.

The task force itself was a result of the legislature’s short-lived attempt during the 2018 session to exempt itself from the PRA and establish its own rules for access, under Senate Bill 6617. Although the measure passed both houses – with limited debate and review – it was vetoed by Gov. Jay Inslee after an outpouring of phone calls and emails from Washingtonians.

The task force met for the first time on Sept. 5, and a video of its meeting is available on TVW. It consisted primarily of introductions and voicing of concerns, especially by legislators. Some seemed unfamiliar with the existing Public Records Act, especially its provisions for exemptions to disclosure for privacy purposes. Several expressed concern about having to disclose confidential information shared with them by constituents.

State Rep. Gerry Polette (D-Seattle), a WCOG board member, posted a report about the first meeting.

Co-chairs are Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland) and Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima). The task force’s charge is to “examine establishing standards for maintaining and disclosing public records for the legislative branch of government.”

The second meeting is Oct. 9, and is designated for discussion of “the value of open government,” according to the agenda. Representatives of several civic organizations, including media, were invited to make presentations. That meeting will also be streamed online on TVW. The task force website includes agenda information and meeting dates; it is available here. 

The task force is expected to meet as many as four times before the session convenes in January, although November and December meetings have not yet been scheduled.