Monday, September 8, 2008

WCOG Final Report on Bills Considered in the 2007-2008 Legislature

Washington Coalition of Open Government tracked the progress of 115 of the 4,347 bills (2,389 House Bills and 1,958 Senate Bills) introduced during the 2007-2008 biennium.

115 of those bills were considered priority bills which the coalition tracked. Some of the bills included on the list were: 1) the Recording of Executive Sessions (HB 3292); 2) Attorney-client Privilege (HB 3231); 3) penalties for violating the Public Records Act (HB 3219); and, 4) the Open Public Meetings Act (HB 2567); 5) the ability for agencies to initiate court action against the requester of public records (HB 2839); 6) and exemption from disclosure of records regarding commissioned peace officers (HB 2490); 7) detailed pipeline map data (HB 2839); and, 8) birth dates of public employees (HB 1942). None of the above bills passed the legislature.

Of the remaining 105 tracked bills, 13 passed and 92 did not pass.

The bills that did pass included several that created new exemptions in the Public Records Act (either directly in RCW 42.56 or in other statutes), including information on burial sites, investigation of street gangs, images of identity documents, mechanical engineer trainee data, audit reports and financial statements from gambling establishments, and fisheries data obtained from the federal government.

The Governor's request for funding in the supplemental budget to establish best practices for the disclosure of electronic records was not included in the final budget that passed.

In addition, the public did not gain access to more information about adverse medical events (SB 6457) and expanded protection for whistle-blowers (SB 6776).

Toby Nixon, President of Washington Coalition for Open Government tells us "that when unfavorable court decisions are factored in, the erosion of the public's right to know continued unabated in this biennium."

For a list of 2008 candidates who have signed the WCOG pledge to support open government, please click here:

Media coverage of Candidate Questionnaire:
Few candidates replying to open-government questionnaire

Olympian: August 15, 2008

"We almost overlooked this item in our mailbox. But it's worth a look - if you want more open government, or even if you fear it. The Washington Coalition for Open Government is posting results from its candidate questionnaire for the fall election cycle. The coalition is pushing to require tape-recording of local-government bodies' executive sessions for future, private review by the courts when allegations of abuse arise. Local governments fought and killed such a proposal last legislative session.

The coalition (which includes news people) has eight agenda items. It also wants limits on the use of attorney-client privilege by state agencies and local governments. This proposal would shield the disclosure of government documents when an actual legal dispute was not pending in the courts, something the coalition contends was a practice until Supreme Court rulings codified a broader interpretation in the Hangartner case." Read More

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