Washington State House Democrats


Public Records

As Saturday’s front page story in the Seattle Times noted, I was the prime sponsor of the bill (2886) supported by the Times to put the Legislature fully under our Public Records Act, and I led the opposition to the ironically undemocratic process used to adopt SB 6617 without hearings.

Thus, for the past several days, I have urged that the Governor veto SB 6617 because of the undemocratic process and to ensure that we go much further towards openness. As you may know, the governor did veto the bill.

Since I was first elected, I have tried to move the Legislature to end its exemption from disclosing almost all records under the Public Records Act. Obviously, I will reintroduce this legislation.

Last June, when the news media submitted its public records request for legislators’ calendars and schedules, I was the first (of just 3) legislators to voluntarily disclose my emails and calendar so reporters could view and report on who sought to meet and influence us. In many cases I am the only legislator to give people the records they ask for. I will continue to do so.

Indeed, I believe so strongly in the public’s right to know what your elected representatives say and do, I have continued to voluntarily disclose records to people associated with Nazi or “alt right” activists who submitted public disclosure requests for my emails and other records. It’s offensive, but I have been the leading champion in Olympia to apply the Public Records Act to the Legislature.

In my floor speech on 6617 (click here to watchcue to 14:00 in) I spoke about why it is so important for you and all our constituents to know:

1) Who your legislators meet with:

2) What lobbyists ask, and;

3) How legislators respond.

At the start of this session, I introduced a bill, HB 2886, which was praised by the news media, to bring legislative records into the sunlight under the Public Records Act.

When I introduced HB 2886, I said that you deserve to know who influences your legislators, which requires disclosure of who your representatives meet with.

You deserve to know what your representatives are asked to do by lobbyists and if your elected representatives promise lobbyists something or refuse to support something.

At the start of this Session, there were only 6 legislators, in addition to me, in the entire state who were willing to publicly support my bill or another House bill requiring disclosure of legislators’ emails, schedules, correspondence with lobbyists, records of investigations of legislators for misconduct, etc…

And, there was absolutely NO legal requirement in place to require that we disclose those records.

Although the process adopting SB 6617 had no meaningful opportunity for public input, or amendment by legislators, it did require disclosure of: 1) legislators’ calendars or schedules; and, 2) ALL legislators’ correspondence with lobbyists and the companies or others who employ lobbyists. This was actually a small step into the sunshine for the Legislature and people of Washington, which I have been working towards for a long time.

Thus, I voted for SB 6617 because to vote against it would have left us with the law exempting the Legislature from any meaningful disclosures. There are many legislators who prefer to do nothing.

I led opposition to the process involving this bill, however.

The news media has not reported that I have publicly said I would vote to uphold a veto. I organized a group of legislators seeking to replace 6617 with a version of my bill to fully subject us to the Public Records Act (my bill does not void litigation or hide existing records). The Governor’s veto message calls for a task force to consider how this would work.

I urged that the Senate and House hold hearings on 6617. The Seattle Times front page story on Saturday noted that I was the prime sponsor of the bill which would have put the Legislature entirely under the Public Records Act, and quoted me for my role opposing this undemocratic process with barely a chance for people to testify or make their voices heard. Nor, did others and I have the opportunity to offer amendments that would have strengthened the bill.

For example, I believe very strongly that there should be judicial review of a decision to withhold documents. My bill would ensure that a judge decides if withholding a record is consistent with the law. That is why we have courts. This is vital for trust and openness.

I will continue to push for the legislature to have a formal process for complaints by our employees, including, of course, sexual harassment. Under my bill (2886), the records of such complaints would be public, consistent with other elected bodies (such as a city council staff) under the Public Records Act. The public has a right to know how the people they elect to represent them conduct themselves and treat others!

I am committed to continuing to voluntarily disclosing my calendar to let everyone see who I meet with. I will be posting it on my website in the future, so you know who your elected representative meets with and when. I announced this in my floor speech on 6617.

Ironically, with the veto of 6617, there will be no legal requirement in place immediately to require disclosure of legislators’ contacts with lobbyists. I will be voluntarily posting my calendar on line so my constituents know who I meet with; and, I will voluntarily disclose email correspondence with lobbyists.

I will continue to introduce and fight for legislation to shed more light on the conduct of legislators and how they represent you.

Thank you for writing to me – I hope this provides a different perspective on my work and welcome your feedback,