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Bill #:  1128

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Public records - protecting essential services

Companion bill #: No Companion Bill.



House - RULES - DEAD


Summary/AWC comments


Update 3/15/13:
Although a majority of legislators were supporting the bill, House leadership did not allow the bill to come to the floor for a full vote. We believe the concern was that legislators would be perceived as not supporting open and transparent government if the bill passed. Thank you to all of the cities who contacted their legislators in support of this bill.

Update 3/6/2013:
The bill is eligible to be pulled for a vote of the full House at any time, and AWC is asking cities to contact their Representatives asking for their support. Please see our Action Alert for more information.

Update 2/11/2013:
On February 8, the House Local Government Committee adopted several amendments before passing the bill out of committee.

The first section, which allows local governments to enjoin a public record request, was amended as follows:

  • Adds that a court may award reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees up to $15,000, to the requestor if the judge finds that the injunction request is frivolous or in bad faith.
  • Removes the provision allowing an injunction for requests made in retaliation for a local government’s action.
  • Changes the provision that a request may be enjoined because it creates an undue burden. Now a local government must demonstrate through clear and convincing evidence that the request will materially interfere with its work.
  • Provides that requestors must be given notice of any motion, an opportunity to respond to the motion, and notice of any motion hearing.
  • Exempts the news media.
  • States that injunction authority is an extraordinary remedy not to be used lightly.

The second section, which allows local governments to adopt a policy limiting the number of hours it devotes to public record requests, passed with the following amendments:

  • Removes the requirement to post the salary schedule and names of all employees before adopting a policy.
  • Changes the minimum amount of time a local government must spend on requests from 5 hours per month to 12 hours per month, unless the local agency has no full-time staff.

The local government coalition supporting this legislation worked with a variety of committee members to review proposed changes. The coalition believes most amendments included in the bill are workable, and the proposal retains its core value as a tool to address Public Records Act abuses. We will continue to work to refine the bill.

Summary of original bill:
This AWC priority bill seeks to protect other essential local government services from public record abuses with two new tools.

First, the bill allows local governments to seek a civil injunction for a public record request if the request:

  • Was made to harass or intimidate the local government or its employees;
  • Creates an undue burden on the local government;
  • Would likely threaten the safety or security of local government staff, family members of staff, or local government facilities; or
  • Would likely assist criminal activity.

In granting the injunction, the court could consider a number of factors, including other public records requests made by the requestor, the type or records sought, the number of records sought, and the local government’s effort to accommodate the requestor.

Second, the bill allows local governments to adopt a policy limiting the number of hours it devotes to responding to public records requests if it makes certain documents, such as budgets, agendas, minutes, and ordinances, publicly available. For local governments with a general fund of $100 million or more, documents are only publicly available if they are posted on a central website. For other local governments, documents are publicly available if they are produced within five business days or accessible through the local government’s website.


Latest version of bill:

Link to WA Legislative bill page

Official title:

AN ACT Relating to public record request response actions by counties, cities, towns, special purpose districts, and other local agency entities;

Sponsors:

Takko, Rodne, Appleton, Johnson, Klippert, Fitzgibbon, Sullivan, Green, Clibborn, Nealey, Ryu, Walsh, Jinkins, Wylie, Moscoso, Sells, Angel, Seaquist, S. Hunt, Springer, Maxwell, Riccelli, Morrell, Hu

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AWC Contacts

Analyst:  Serena Dolly
Lobbyist:  Candice Bock

Issue Area

General Government

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