OLYMPIA – Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle) has introduced a bill to significantly increase the openness of the state legislature. HB 2886 would amend the Public Records Act to open most legislative records to the public and news media.
“Washingtonians deserve to know who influences their legislators and who their elected representatives meet with about the public’s business,” said Rep. Pollet. “Other elected leaders are not allowed to operate in darkness, and neither should the legislature.”
If enacted the measure would make available:
- Calendars and schedules of legislators relating to their conducting public business
- Administrative budget and financial records
- Personnel leave, travel, and payroll records
- Reports submitted to the legislature
- Correspondence with persons outside the legislature seeking to lobby them or regarding official duties including bill development (except for issues relating to personal matters)
- Findings or reports of any person or body appointed or designated by the legislature regarding member or staff misconduct
The bill would allow legislators to withhold personal information and personal schedules (e.g., family or medical schedules). It would also protect communications from whistleblowers who want to bring to light fraud or misconduct in state agencies.
The bill’s intent section quotes Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said, “The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government.”
“We must give the people the information they require to make quality decisions with their ballots,” said Pollet. “While some protections are warranted, the blanket protection the legislature has afforded itself should end. It’s the democratic thing to do.”
The measure will be referred to the House State Government, Elections & Information Technology Committee for a public hearing.