Washington has one of the most enlightened open records laws in the nation (RCW 42.56). There is a move afoot to change that.
House Bill 1128 would permit governmental agencies to petition a court for an injunction when they see a request for public records as “unduly burdensome.” (HB 1128 doesn’t define what constitutes an undue burden.)
Many public officials want this legislation because, they say, they’re overwhelmed by abusive requesters. HB 1128 is like using an atom bomb to swat a fly. Other measures, such as expanding the authority of the Open Government Ombudsman to determine which requests are abusive or unreasonable, would be more effective and productive.
HB 1128 is being proposed under the guise of saving taxpayer money, but it actually would allow agencies to pick and choose which records to provide to taxpayers. The bill was supposedly written to protect public agencies from abusive requesters, but it doesn’t protect citizens from abusive agencies.
Governmental agencies have legions of lawyers representing them, using taxpayer dollars, but the public doesn’t. This legislation would effectively eliminate the public’s right to know what the government is doing with the public’s money.
Call your legislators today. Maintain open government in Washington state.