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Published on Friday, March 31, 2017

Public records bills still moving in the Senate

AWC’s priority public records bills, HB 1594 and HB 1595, passed another milestone last week. Both bills were voted out of the Senate State Government Committee unanimously. The bills were amended with input from stakeholders. We would like to thank the committee chair, Sen. Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way) for his work on the amendments. AWC supports the amended versions; however, we are concerned about the potential impact of the added performance measurement requirements now included in HB 1594. If you have specific feedback on the performance measurement requirements, please share that with AWC staff, Candice Bock or Logan Bahr. (There is more detail about these amendments at the end of the article.)

Since HB 1594 has a fiscal impact, it was heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee on Friday. It must be voted on by April 4 to keep moving. HB 1595 has been referred to Rules and needs further action to move it to a vote by the full Senate.

Thanks for all of the support from cities. Now is a good time to remind your Senator about the importance of these bills and ask for their support.

There were two sections of HB 1594 amended in the committee. One change added language exempting certain volunteer records from disclosure. The other change added performance measurement reporting requirements. Specifically Section 10 of the bill was amended to require the following:

  • Requires each agency to keep a log of each records request submitted that includes the following information: the identity provided by the requestor; the date the request was received; the text of the request; a description of the records produced; a description of the records redacted or withheld and reasons for the exemption; and the date the request was closed. The log is subject to disclosure.
  • Requires that agencies estimating annual public records fulfillment costs of over $40,000 must report certain performance measurements to JLARC annually, which JLARC must compile and report to the Legislature. The performance measurements include:
    • The average length of time taken to acknowledge receipt of a public records request;
    • The proportion of requests where the agency provided the requested records within five days of receipt of the request compared to the proportion of requests where the agency provided an estimate of an anticipated response time beyond five days of receipt of the request;
    • A comparison of the agency's average initial estimate provided for full disclosure of responsive records with the actual time when all responsive records were fully disclosed, including whether the agency sent subsequent estimates of an anticipated response time;
    • The number of requests where the agency formally sought additional clarification from the requestor;
    • The number of requests denied and the most common reasons for denying requests;
    • The number of requests abandoned by requestors;
    • To the extent the information is known by the agency, requests by type of requestor, including individuals, law firms, organizations, insurers, governments, incarcerated persons, the media, anonymous requestors, current or former employees, and others;
    • Which portion of requests were fulfilled electronically compared to requests fulfilled by physical records;
    • The number of requests where the agency was required to scan physical records electronically to fulfill disclosure;
    • The estimated agency staff time spent on each individual request;
    • The costs incurred by the agency in fulfilling records requests, including costs for staff compensation and legal review, and a measure of the average cost per request;
    • The number of claims filed alleging a violation of chapter 42.56 RCW or other public records statutes in the past year involving the agency, categorized by type and exemption at issue, if applicable;
    • The costs incurred by the agency litigating claims alleging a violation of chapter 42.56 RCW or other public records statutes in the past year, including any penalties imposed on the agency;
    • The costs incurred by the agency with managing and retaining records, including staff compensation and purchases of equipment, hardware, software, and services to manage and retain public records or otherwise assist in the fulfillment of public records requests;
    • Expenses recovered by the agency from requestors for fulfilling public records requests, including any customized service charges; and
    • Measures of requestor satisfaction with agency responses, communication, and processes relating to the fulfillment of public records requests.
Categories: Open government
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