Sunshine Week legislative update

March 17, 2014

This Sunshine Week forecast is brought to you by the 2014 Legislative Session: Your right to know is partly cloudy. When the just concluded session began there was the opportunity for brilliant sunshine but at least we avoided any severe secret storm warnings. 

Below is a look back on some of the open government actions (or lack thereof) during the 2014 Legislative Session.

Public notice

Are you a night owl that can show up at a moment's notice? If yes, then this 10:45 p.m. public hearing was for you.

Are your speed reading skills as good as lawmakers? If not, then this update from the last day of session by the Spokesman Review may be alarming:

The budget is scheduled to be put to a vote in the House late this afternoon and be sent to the Senate for a vote later in the evening. That means the Legislature will suspend several rules that allow time for the public to see legislation, and for members to read and consider it.

Do you live hours away from Olympia but still have the desire to participate in the legislative debate? If yes, better luck next year (Note: Interest remains strong though for remote testimony options).

  • HB 2369/SB 6560 (Increasing legislative transparency by providing mandatory notice and waiting periods before legislative action, banning title-only bills, and opening all legislative committees to the public) - No public hearings

Do you receive most of your information online? If yes, you'll be happy about this development.

  • HB 2105 (Promoting transparency in government by requiring public agencies with governing bodies to post their agendas online in advance of meetings) - Approved by Legislature

Executive Privilege

Are you a Governor that can't find an exemption to deny a public record? Rest easy, the Legislature didn't act to keep you from claiming Executive Privilege (Note: Governor Inslee has promised not to claim during his term).

  • HJR 4217 (Amending the Constitution regarding the people's right of access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business) - No public hearing

  • SJR 8214 (Amending the state Constitution to state that the Governor is subject to public records requests) - Failed committee executive action

Open government training

Good news if you believe:

The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created. (RCW 42.30.010)

Although lawmakers were exempted, the Legislature did pass the Attorney General's request bill requiring public officials receive training on the state's open government and public records laws.

  • SB 5964 (Concerning training public officials and employees regarding public records, records management, and open public meetings requirements) - Approved by Legislature

Open data

Do you think public information should be made proactively available in a format that allows you to create your own reports? If yes, keep an eye on this debate next year.

  • HB 2202 (Concerning the establishment of an open data policy to facilitate sharing and publication of government data) - Didn't clear Rules Committee

TVW

Is one of your favorite internet bookmarks TVW? If yes, you may need to get use to seeing a black screen when you click on it. Official statement from TVW on failure to receive funding for needed equipment upgrades:

We remain committed to providing citizens with as much access to the legislative process and state government as we can given the circumstances.  We have a triage plan in place so that, as we experience further equipment failures, TVW will try to keep fully functional those hearing rooms on the Capitol Campus that are utilized most. And we will also continue working with OFM and lawmakers to get the project funded.

Depending on what develops with TVW, this Sunshine Week's partly cloudy forecast could be downgraded to a severe weather warning. For now though we can hope that lawmakers and candidates will brush up on ways to improve the people's right to know and the forecast for next year's Sunshine Week.