Olympia – Lawmakers have taken an important step to ensuring open public access to government records, according to Attorney General Rob McKenna.
The Senate and House yesterday passed an earlier version of the Public Disclosure Act bill, leaving out two controversial amendments that the Senate had previously adopted. The bill was introduced by McKenna to strengthen the Public Disclosure Act to make it easier for citizens to obtain public records.
“Strong ‘sunshine laws’ are crucial to assuring government accountability and transparency,” said McKenna. “This bill strengthens our state’s most important sunshine law which was originally enacted by voter-approved initiative more than 30 years ago.”
The bill prohibits a state or local agency from rejecting requests by labeling them "overbroad." Instead, agencies must seek clarifications, whenever possible, from the requestor. The bill also increases fines for agencies that don’t comply with the law.
The new law will allow agencies to respond to large records requests to the public on an “installment basis,” by providing small batches of documents as they become available. Agencies will be allowed to stop assembling records if a requestor does not review or obtain copies of the first installment. In addition, agencies can charge a ten percent deposit of the estimated copying costs.
Agencies must also designate and publicly identify an employee to be its public records officer. And the new law will allow the Attorney General to draft model “best practices” rules for state and local agencies on the details of providing public records.
“My goal is to help create a ‘culture of compliance’ at all levels of government, so that citizens can expect a prompt reply to a public records request, or a clear explanation as to why it cannot be fulfilled,” said McKenna. “The Attorney General’s Office is going to lead the way by actively assisting other agencies in this effort.”
Once the bill is signed by the Governor, the Attorney General will begin developing the model rules and establish a public comment process.
For more information contact:
Media Relations Director, (360) 586-0725