Friday, January 25, 2013

HB1128 Oh No! - Lights Out!

One of the primary ways that we obtain information is from public records requests. Without the Public Records Act (PRA), we'd have no idea what was going on with secret meetings, with our committees, and with the interactions of our County with state and tribal governments.

That's why the email below is so scary.  The state is trying to hobble the PRA so much that it would effectively eliminate it. Government loves the idea. Newspapers and the press hate it. The People should hate it too because we'll be totally in the dark about how our government operates.

Unfortunately, this Bill has lots of bipartisan sponsorship. They are having hearings this afternoon in Olympia. If you can, send the sponsors an email, especially if you can do it before 1:30 pm today when the hearings start. Let them know that you are against any weakening of the PRA.

Folks - below are the email addresses for all of the sponsors of a bill (HB1128) currently being considered by the state house that would, among other things, allow government to curtail the staff and support needed to answer public records requests; allow government to prioritize public records requests based on the size of the request or the number of times that the requestor has asked in the past 12 months. Additionally, a portion of the bill allows government (or the person to whom the request relates) to apply for an injunction to prevent the public records request from being satisfied.

As all of you know, the efforts of some of you to gather information from San Juan County has been crucial to determining where local government is failing to operate within the law and where activities and decisions are being made outside of the view of the public to the people's detriment. Finallly, curtailing our abillity to get information is anathema to the role of the public in a home rule charter county.

Please send an email to these legislators a.s.a.p. letting them know that their bill will allow local government to hide from scrutiny, to pick and chose PRA responses and will hurt the people's ability to insure transparency and fairness.;;;;;l;;


  1. This is important, and I want to send the email to ALL of the listed sponsors, but can't seem to make your list of addressees in your posting into a single "group" email. Can you set up the list in yoiur posting to allow that? If so, please do asap. Thanks.

  2. If you copy and paste the list of addresses into your "To" field on your email it should work, although some emails (e.g., Mac) want to see a comma instead of a semicolon between names. Perhaps that is the issue you are encountering. Try separating each of the names with a comma.

    Sorry for the troubles. Here they are with commas.,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  3. Here is an example email, provided by a reader, if you'd like to cut and paste:

    Dear House Members -

    I do NOT support HB 1128.

    I am writing to all of you as sponsors of House Bill 1128 to implore you to think about the effects of this bill on the public. I understand that the right to request public records can be abused by certain segments of society, and that is something that perhaps can get targeted treatment, but the "solution" that this bill offers penalizes the very people the the Public Records Act was instituted to help. Additionally, it leaves discretion over responding to the records request in the hands of some of those that it might expose. The language of this bill allows "agencies" to prioritize or essentially ignore public records requests from those that are out of favor or might reveal something that is embarassing. All the requestor has to do is some how end up at the bottom of the pile and there will not be enought hours or money to respond to the request. Too bad, and the public is forever in the dark.

    I live in a county whose citizens are just beginning to come to grips with revelations, made possible by public records requests, of the way that our home rule charter government has worked in the shadows, without public notice or opportunity to be heard when fundamental changes in our land use code and other laws and budgeting matters have been acted upon.

    Please do not give local government the option of instituting laws that curtail our abillity to watch what they do. Many of the most revealing documents are email and notes that will not be a part of the public record posted on websites or otherwise available. It is our ability to request copies of this information that gives the public a chance to shine a light on the activity of government and demand transparency from our local legislators.

    Furthermore, the Public Records Act is money well spent. Without transparency and public accountability, we have no real hope of controlling waste and the cost of government. HB1128 is likely to have hidden cost implications.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  4. Thanks, TH. I will give your fix a try. It is, it seems, a Mac (iPad) issue.

  5. Just read the bill. This is bad policy on many fronts.

    The intent of the bill is to shield the entity from harassment by those who use the Record Reqest Law as a means of attack. The problem is that in doing so. it prempts the rights of thos of us who rely on the information to make informed decisions. Just because a person requests information every week, they could be identified as "abusive".

    You say Abusive - I say Informed.

    Please tell me that our representatives have more important things to do than trying to hide information.


  7. Yes, Yes, Yes, Write the letter.

    If you are into numerology as a basis for statutory interpretation, you can plainly see that that this is bad news.

    Nick "I am One To Ate your documents" Power

  8. A letter I sent to Rep.Jeff Morris..

    Jeff...I am a constituent of yours from Orcas Island, San Juan County. It has recently come to my attention that some in the state house are attempting to water down,or reduce the people's access to public records by adding new language to the Washington State Public Records Act.
    After reviewing the bill's text, I am very concerned that anything akin to this type of change in the Public Records Act would even be considered. I know first hand that the transparency of government is an essential factor in a healthy democracy, and our law as it stands, supports this transparency and guards against misconduct, corruption, and a myriad of other evils that flourish when not subject to the people' s scrutiny. I encourage you to speak out in favor of keeping the people's access to public records at least as strong as it is, and reinforced if necessary. I am not naive ,many governmental entities express the opinion that public input and oversight is an inconvenient obstacle deterring their effective function. If there is one function that government should pursue diligently, it is the free and open dissemination of public information, that functions as a natural deterrent to bad governance.

    Thank you for your time,

    Errol C. Speed