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Published on Friday, April 7, 2017

The Senate votes out AWC priority public records bill and action is planned this week on the other but help is needed

HB 1594 and HB 1595 are awaiting action by the full Senate. They must pass out of the Senate by the next cut-off deadline on April 12 to keep moving. At that point, because the Senate has amended the versions that came over from the House, the bills must go back to the House for agreement no later than April 19.

HB 1595 was modified slightly in the Senate, but remains mostly unchanged from the version that passed the House. HB 1595 does the following:

  • Amends the PRA to allow cities to charge a small fee for providing copies of electronic records. A city may establish different fees by conducting its own cost study but the default charges in the bill are as follows:
    • 10 cents per scanned page
    • 5 cents per 4 files or attachments
    • 10 cents per gigabyte
    • These charges may be applied cumulatively
  • Allows an agency to charge a flat fee of $2 for providing copies when the estimated costs are expected to be $2 or more.
  • Creates the ability for cities to deny overwhelming computer generated “bot” requests.
  • Prohibits overly broad requests for all of a city’s records.
  • Creates a way for cities to apply a service charge to exceptionally complex requests.

EHB 1595 Senate Floor Debate

HB 1594 has been more significantly modified in the Senate. As reported last week, Sen. Miloscia (R-Federal Way) added a number of performance measurement reporting requirements to the bill. We heard concerns from a number of cities as well as other local governments about the impact of collecting those metrics. Staff proposed several additional changes to mitigate those impacts. However, we were only able to reach agreement on raising the threshold for agencies to report from those that spend $40,000 per year on records request to $100,000. We also agreed that the Joint Legislative and Audit Review Committee (JLARC) would work with agencies to develop a consistent reporting method. While we still have concerns about the impacts created by this reporting requirement, we want to see the bill continue to advance because of the other beneficial programs in the proposal.

HB 1594 includes the following:

  • Requires training for records officers to address issues of retention, production and disclosure of electronic records.
  • Creates a grant program within the Office of the Secretary of State for local governments to improve their public record management systems.
  • Establishes a program within the Office of the Attorney General and the State Archives to consult with local governments on public records best practices.
  • Creates a study on the feasibility of establishing a statewide open records portal.
  • Provides for a $1 document recording fee to fund the consultation and grant programs.
  • The funding and the programs will sunset in 2020.
  • Updates the process for asking a requestor to clarify a request.
  • Requires agencies to maintain a log of each records request.
  • Requires agencies with actual budgeted public records costs over $100,000 to report certain performance measurements to JLARC.
Categories: Open government