Timeline: Legislative public records debate
Lawmakers may adopt a controversial public records bill sometime tonight. Here is a timeline of this public records controversy:
- 9/12/17 – Media coalition sues lawmakers for violating public records law
- 12/5/17 – HB 2255 prefiled (Concerning the definition of public records in regards to the legislature)
- 12/22/17 – Thurston County Superior Court Judge asks Attorney General for legal brief on whether lawmakers are subject to public records
- 1/9/18 – SB 6139 filed (Concerning public access to the records of the legislature and judiciary)
- 1/10/18 – Attorney General files a legal brief saying lawmakers are subject to public records
- 1/16/18 – At Democratic Leadership Media Availability lawmakers say they can’t comment on public records controversy
- 1/19/18 – Thurston County Superior Court Judge rules lawmakers are subject to public records
- 1/19/18 – HB 2886 filed (Concerning public records of the legislative branch)
- 1/23/18 – At GOP Media Availability lawmakers say they can’t comment on public records controversy; mention SB 6139 will have public hearing
- 1/24/18 – Notice of public hearing on SB 6139 for 1/31 released
- 1/25/18 – Notice that SB 6139 has been removed from public hearing for 1/31
- 1/25/18 – A new notice that SB 6139 has been added again to public hearing for 1/31
- 1/31/18 – Public hearing held on SB 6139
- 2/21/18 – SB 6617 filed, rules suspended and placed on second reading calendar (Concerning records disclosure obligations of the legislative branch)
- 2/21/18 – Notice of work session for 2/22 on SB 6617 posted at 4:17 p.m.
- 2/22/18 – 1 hour work session on SB 6617; no formal public hearing or committee action will be held on SB 6617
- 2/23/18 – House/Senate adopt SB 6617
As for what WPC thinks should happen, the following is from our Policy Guide:
Policy recommendation: The legislature should make itself subject to the Public Records Act and the Open Public Meetings Act . . . To lead by example, the legislature should subject itself to all the requirements of the Public Record Act and Open Public Meetings Act on the same basis as other public entities in Washington.
Updated 4:45 p.m.
Comment from Rep. Melanie Stambaugh on SB 6617:
"I am deeply disappointed in the legislature’s blatant disregard for transparency in the legislative process. This is a time where the legislature should come together to make government more transparent, not less. The very process utilized to craft and pass this bill violates the public trust. For the last year I have been telling people that government is out of line by not allowing access to information that belongs to the people. SB 6617 is another example of this.
Legislators were restricted in this debate and were not allowed to verbalize any argument against this bill on the House Floor. The House Floor debate consisted of one 'pro' speech from each side of the chamber and there were not any speeches against this bill, despite there being several 'no' votes. This is wildly different from other bills where members are freely able to stand and speak. It is very disappointing.”
Should state lawmakers be held to same public disclosure requirements as local officials?