Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Orwall’s 3/2/18 Update: Public Records Bill Veto and Fighting Blight

Dear friends and neighbors,

As you have probably heard, a week ago both legislative chambers passed Senate Bill 6617. I was one of the 14 House members voting NO on this measure.

Though SB 6617 would have provided some steps toward open government, including correspondence with lobbyists, as well as lawmakers’ calendars, to public scrutiny, while still keeping personal emails and letters from constituents private, I had serious concerns because of two main reasons:

  • First, the process: This bill was rushed through the Senate and then the House without going through the regular legislative process. While a work session did take place, there were no hearings, which means there was no opportunity for public input. I believe citizens should get to weigh in on every piece of legislation we consider, especially when the subject matter is, precisely, government transparency.
  • And secondly because, in my opinion, the policy didn’t go far enough. Some of the provisions in the bill did not sit well with me. For example, communications between lawmakers would remain sealed, and there would be no judicial review for denied requests.

Late last night, prompted by the thousands of calls and emails asking the governor to veto the bill, as well as a letter from many of my colleagues (who had voted in favor of the bill) also asking him for a veto, Governor Inslee vetoed the measure in full.

I am glad he did. This gives lawmakers the chance to start over and getting it right next time.

The governor will convene a task force of news media, open government advocates, legislators, and others, to engage in a very public process and bring back recommendations to the Legislature next year.

This is the right thing to do.

abandoned house

Fighting blight in neighborhoods across Washington

You’ve seen them as you drive around town, maybe even in your own neighborhood, vacant or abandoned homes that stand out due to their rundown condition. These eyesores become breeding grounds for crime and dumping grounds for trash; they are targets for arson and can become a health and safety hazard for their surrounding communities. Blighted properties make neighborhoods uninviting and bring down property values in the area, which reduces tax revenues that fund essential public services.

You may wonder why nobody seems to be doing anything about these neglected properties. If they were vacated due to foreclosures, surely the banks or the city or county could step in and clean them up.

However, it’s not that easy. Many of these homes are in mid-foreclosure and, under current law, when a residential property is abandoned and is in the foreclosure process, lenders can’t enter the property for any reason without consent unless the foreclosure is finalized. Local governments have limited tools to address this issue and while they do have nuisance abatement authority, it is a costly and cumbersome process. They would rather the actual owners cover those expenses instead of imposing the cost on taxpayers.

That’s why I sponsored House Bill 2057, which provides a way for local governments, lenders and their agents, to access abandoned properties to carry out maintenance and keep them from deteriorating. The measure passed both the House and Senate unanimously and is on its way to the governor’s desk.

For more information on my bill, read this press release.

Another great page this week

This week I was happy to sponsor page Abhijeet (Abhi) Sanga, a student at Mt. Rainier High School.

Orwall page

Pages perform a wide variety of responsibilities, from presenting the flags to distributing amendments on the House floor. In addition to contributing to the efficient operation of the Legislature, pages receive daily civics instruction, draft their own bills, and participate in mock committee hearings.

In his spare time, Abhi enjoys sports, especially soccer and tennis, and he also volunteers as a tutor.

Click here to read about the Page Program.

As always, I appreciate that you take the time to read my newsletter. Please continue calling and emailing me with your ideas and concerns.


Orwall Sig