OLYMPIA – Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-Seattle) is the first state legislator to make his complete legislative session calendar available on-line for the public and news media.
“I believe nothing is more essential to holding us accountable than for constituents and reporters to know who legislators spend time with, what lobbyists and special interests ask us to do, how we respond, and whether legislators have engaged in sexual harassment or other workplace misconduct,” said Pollet.
Reporters and constituents will not have to submit a public records request to view Representative Pollet’s full legislative session calendar, it will be posted on-line on his legislative website. He will continue to post updated calendars. Posting commonly requested records on an agency website is considered a “best practice” under the Public Records Act, rather than requiring reporters or the public to repeatedly submit public records requests for the same records.
At the start of the session, Rep. Pollet was the prime sponsor of House Bill 2886, which would have clearly put the Legislature and legislators under Washington’s Public Records Act, including existing records such as those related to misconduct.
“When news reporters submitted public records requests for all legislators’ calendars last year, I was the first, and one of just three, to voluntarily disclose,” Pollet said. “I believe best practice for public records disclosure is for agencies to proactively post commonly requested and very important records without waiting for them to be requested. Accordingly, you can now view my calendar for the 2018 session at my legislative website without having to submit a records request.”
The posted calendar includes all legislative related meetings, including with lobbyists, public officials, advocates working on bills with Rep. Pollet, constituents or other legislators, as well as all his committee meetings and floor sessions.
A coalition of news media and reporters sued the Legislature and legislative leaders for failing to disclose legislators’ calendars and schedules and records of misconduct allegations and investigations in 2017.
In response to the news media lawsuit, a Thurston County Superior Court judge held that the state Public Records Act (PRA) applies to individual legislators, but not the House or Senate as entities (which would still leave misconduct records uncovered by the PRA). That decision is on appeal to the State Supreme Court. The Legislature passed a measure to provide for disclosure of some new legislative records, including calendars, which was met by a tremendous public outcry and vetoed by Governor Inslee.
The Legislature, Governor, and major news media agreed to hold an open process to develop legislation next year to determine what records of legislators are public and how they are released. Rep. Pollet expects to play a significant role for openness and transparency in that process, and hopes that posting of his calendars helps set a new course for disclosure.
To see Rep. Pollet’s legislative session calendar, click on the links below.