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Published on Monday, February 11, 2013

AWC priority public record bill moving forward

HB 1128 continues to move forward after executive action by the House Local Government Committee on Friday, February 8. The committee adopted several amendments.

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.

We very much appreciate the efforts of the bill sponsor, Rep. Takko (D-Longview), and members of the House Local Government Committee for their work and support of this bill. If you have the opportunity, please express appreciation to these legislators. We are excited that this AWC priority continues to advance.