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Details of the Legislature’s proposal to exempt itself from the Public Records Act

Rowland Thompson, right, executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, testifies during a joint work session of the Senate and House State Government Committees, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. The session was held to discuss a bill filed by lawmakers who want to circumvent a recent court ruling finding them fully subject to the state's public disclosure laws. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
Rowland Thompson, right, executive director of Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington, testifies during a joint work session of the Senate and House State Government Committees, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. The session was held to discuss a bill filed by lawmakers who want to circumvent a recent court ruling finding them fully subject to the state's public disclosure laws. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Senate Bill 6617, which would exempt the Legislature from complying with the state Public Records Act approved by voters in 1973, includes the following provisions:

    It creates a special Public Records Act for the Legislature, different from the one state agencies and local governments must follow. It only requires them to release certain documents, which could exempt records of who may be influencing legislation.

    It provides no appeal outside the Legislature. If a public records request is denied, the requester can appeal to the Facilities and Operations Committee or the Executive Rules Committee, which are made up of legislators, but if that appeal is denied, the decision is final and the requester can’t appeal to a court.

    It exempts communications from “constituents,” but doesn’t define the term.

    It exempts some information from calendars.

    It allows documents to be denied for “privacy” for anything legislators decide is not of legitimate public concern and highly offensive.

    It allows them to deny release for anything they say is issued to harass or intimidate or presents a safety risk.

    It is retroactive and applies to all pending requests and litigation, which would overrule a trial court’s ruling in a lawsuit brought by state news organizations.

    It would block release of most records related to complaints of misconduct like sexual harassment by saying only the final disposition of disciplinary proceedings will be released.

    Jim Camden

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

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