By now, you’ve heard of the brouhaha that brewed last week in Olympia surrounding Senate Bill 6617, which tried to shut down a lawsuit brought by 10 news media organizations — including The Associated Press and The Seattle Times. The bill would have kept years of state lawmakers’ past records — such as emails, text messages, and calendars — private, only subjecting email exchanges with lobbyists and calendars generated after July 1 of this year to public scrutiny.
Also, there would have been no more access to past disciplinary proceedings and complaints.
Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed the bill on the evening of March 1, but not before thousands of phone calls, emails, and social media messages from constituents to his office and members of the State Legislature.
Washington state has had a Public Records Act since 1972. It’s how we, the media, find out about the stuff that sometimes lawmakers would rather keep secret.
I’m sorry. But as an elected official, elected by the PUBLIC, everything you do while serving in that role is PUBLIC.
You have no right to secrecy.
As an Asian American, it’s disheartening to look at the roll call.
Every single elected official of Asian American descent voted FOR this bill — meaning they wanted to keep things secret.
In the House: Rep. Cindy Ryu, Rep. Mia Gregerson, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, Rep. Vandana Slatter, and Rep. Monica Stonier.
In the Senate: Sen. Bob Hasegawa, Sen. Steve Hobbs, and Sen. Manka Dhingra.
Sponsored by Sen. Sharon Nelson and Sen. Mark Schoesler, the legislation came on the heels of a Jan. 19 ruling by Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese, that state lawmakers are subject to the state’s Public Records Act. The ruling was part of an ongoing lawsuit against the Legislature by media organizations, who sued last year for lawmakers’ internal communications and records pertaining to alleged sexual harassment incidents.
In the hours leading up to the veto, Inslee’s staff engaged in behind-the-scenes negotiations with legislators and newspaper publishers.
In exchange for a veto and no override vote from the Legislature, media organizations would seek a stay on the enforcement of the Jan. 19 court ruling, agree not to field a ballot initiative to overturn the Legislature’s action, and help lawmakers to craft public records legislation in 2019.
We appear to have dodged a bullet.
But ask yourself, what are your state lawmakers hiding? On the right are the names, phone numbers, and emails of all the API elected officials who voted for secrecy.
Rep. Cindy Ryu
Rep. Mia Gregerson
Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos
Rep. Vandana Slatter
Rep. Monica Stonier
Sen. Bob Hasegawa
Sen. Steve Hobbs
Sen. Manka Dhingra