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Published on Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Governor signs AWC priority public records bills

The Legislature passed HB 1594 and HB 1595 when the House voted to concur on the changes made by the Senate. The House concurrence vote for both bills was a strong bipartisan showing of 80-18. The Governor signed the bills into law on May 16.

AWC would like to thank all of our cities who weighed in with your legislators about the challenges you face in upholding the public records act and the importance of the reasonable updates proposed in these two bills. We also want to express our appreciation to the Washington State Association of Counties for being such a strong partner in working on this issue.

And, of course, we want to send a huge thank you to our prime sponsors, Rep. Joan McBride (D-Kirkland) and Rep. Terry Nealey (R-Dayton). They spent countless hours over the past year working to get to this point. We also appreciate the efforts of many other legislators including Reps. Springer, Senn, Koster, and Hudgins and Senators Miloscia, Hunt, Schoesler, and Kuderer.

Passage of these two bills represents significant work with a large group of stakeholders spanning nearly 12 months. Cities are committed to open and transparent government and we have worked hard to have legislation that upholds that commitment while helping to address the challenges facing the public records act from ever-changing technology.

The effective date of the two bills is July 23, 2017. The following details explain what the bills do:

HB 1595 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 four files or attachments
  • 10 cents per gigabyte
  • These charges may be applied cumulatively

The bill also:

  • 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.

HB 1594:

  • 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.
  • 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