Olympia - Attorney General Rob McKenna testified today before the House State Government Operations and Accountability Committee urging lawmakers to support legislation that would increase the public's access to public records.
McKenna said he authored House Bill 1758 with the goal of balancing the public's right to lawfully review public records with state agencies' need to comply on a reasonable timetable.
"The public has a right to know what government is doing with their tax money," said McKenna. "Unfortunately, citizens who request public records from state or local agencies too often face unreasonable obstacles. This bill will strengthen the Public Disclosure Act to help the public keep tabs on the agencies that work for them."
McKenna's bill, which has wide bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, would prohibit government from simply declaring a request "overbroad", and instead require agencies to assist requestors in identifying the records they are seeking. It would also require agencies to designate an employee as a public records officer to help citizens with records requests.
McKenna said his proposal is balanced to address problems state and local governments face when responding to overly unreasonable requests.
"Agencies will be protected by the attorney-client privilege when sharing candid legal advice with clients," he said. "But my bill clearly defines that exemption so the public will also be protected from illegitimate attempts to shield public information under the attorney-client privilege."
The bill also authorizes the Attorney General's Office to develop a set of guidelines, or "best practices", for state and local governments to assist them in promptly providing public records.
In addition, it increases penalties against agencies which violate the law, and allows the State Auditor to audit agencies and municipalities to ensure they are charging their actual cost of providing copies of records.
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2005 Public Disclosure Act Legislation