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Your legislators hit with sneak attack on open government

 


The way they passed it says it all.

With almost no public input or notice, the Washington State Legislature last week passed a bill to exempt itself from a law the citizens of the state decided decades ago should apply to all public agencies: the Public Records Act.

The legislators who represent you voted for it too, if you live anywhere around the Grand Coulee Dam area.

The bill they passed came in response to a lawsuit the Legislature was losing. Last month a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled that the state’s lawmakers are, in fact, subject to the same law every other agency in the state has to obey.

They didn’t like that. Our lawmakers have been ignoring the Public Records Act since it became law. Last fall, a group of news media interests, including the Associated Press and the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, of which The Star is a member, pressed the issue after journalists were denied records in connection with a developing story.

So on Thursday, Senate Bill 6617 was read for the first time, introduced in the senate by the majority and minority leaders, who declared it an emergency, which allowed circumventing the usual process. A workshop for Friday morning was announced late Thursday night. It became law on Friday, retroactive to the day Washington became a state.

True to the popular doublespeak movement of the current political climate, the sponsors painted it as a move toward more transparency.

What the law really does is shield from disclosure communication with anyone who is not officially registered as a lobbyist in the state of Washington.

This opens the door to abuse, as representatives of large corporations, lawyers for special interests and mega donors can be treated as “constituents” whose privacy needs protecting.

This isn’t over. Gov. Jay Inslee should veto this sneak attack on open governance, even if there is a clear veto override waiting. Make the legislators defile the lawmaking process and the will of their constituents twice, the second time in broad daylight with the whole state watching.

Call Gov. Inslee’s office, and demand a veto: 360-902-4111.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher

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