Touting transparency as the reason for the vote, Washington state legislators raced through a bill — with no floor debate — that exempted themselves from the voter-approved Public Records Act.
The bill (SB 6617) retroactively blocks the release of prior public records — including past communications and meetings with lobbyists — and it restricts which records lawmakers are required to release.
In January a Thurston County judge ruled that legislators were required to follow the Public Records Act, which they argued did not apply to them. The lawsuit originated from a group of media companies — the AP, Seattle Times, KING TV and others — that argued state lawmakers were not in compliance. The legislature appealed the judge’s ruling.
Then with little warning, legislators overwhelmingly approved the bill which effectively overrides the judge’s ruling. Among legislators in our Ballard and Fremont-area districts, only Sen. Reuven Carlyle voted against it. He was also one of the only legislators to comment on the bill.
“I voted against the open records SB 6617 bill not in criticism of the authors,” Sen. Carlyle wrote on Twitter. “But in a belief that [the legislature] required more deliberative time to craft a responsible solution with full public participation.”
Open government groups blasted the bill and the closed-door process to race it to a vote.
Representatives Frame, Tarleton, Pedersen, Macri and Sen. Copp all voted in favor. Since the bill was approved by an overwhelming majority, it cannot be vetoed by the governor.