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Published on Thursday, April 28, 2016

Lots of effort, but little change in public records

Despite an amazing effort by our bill sponsors, bipartisan support, a wide variety of local government supporters, and tremendous response from our cities, we were unable to advance HB 2576 and its modest changes to the public records law. Unfortunately, this repeated a pattern we have experienced over the past few sessions of bills that are unable to get through the House.

HB 2576 was cosponsored by Reps. McBride (D-Kirkland) and Nealey (R-Dayton), and began as a more comprehensive approach to public records. In its first iteration HB 2576 would have authorized cities to adopt policies to limit the time and resources spent responding to records requests, established a Public Records Commission responsible for alternative dispute resolution for public records disputes, and allowed for cost recovery of certain commercially motivated records requests. After lengthy negotiations with a variety of stakeholders, the bill was narrowed to allow agencies to prioritize certain types of requests, clarified that a request for all records is not a request for identifiable records, and clarified that a request via computer “bot” is not a valid request. Unfortunately, despite the narrow approach of the revised bill, it still failed to pass the House.

The main concern seemed to be that there was not sufficient stakeholder involvement in the crafting of the bill, along with strong concerns from the news media. AWC, along with the bill sponsors and the newspaper industry, has committed to an extensive stakeholder process over the 2016 interim. We hope to kick off that effort in May. We also look forward to the release of the State Auditor’s public records study in late July or early August. We believe it will include helpful data and information about the impacts of records requests and leading practices in responding to requests.

We encourage you to continue to share your data and stories about the impact of public records on your community with your legislators.

BillTracker Bill # Descriptive title Final status
Yes HB 2362 Developing policies and provisions around police-worn body cameras Law; Effective 6/9/2016
  SB 6171 Increasing civil penalties for knowlingly violating the Open Public Meetings Act Law; Effective 6/9/2016
  HB 2663 Sunshine Committee recommendations Law; Effective 6/9/2016
Yes HB 2576 Modifying local government public records provisions Failed
  HB 2353 Increasing penalties for Open Public Meetigns Act violations Failed