Last Friday, February 22, was the first major deadline for legislation to stay under consideration in the Washington State Legislature this session. Bills had to pass out of policy committees by 5 p.m. (except for bills in the House fiscal committees and Senate Ways & Means and Transportation committees where the deadline is March 1).
The following bills are still alive following last Friday’s deadline. Some have been modified, while some remain in their original form. The next important date for legislation is March 13, 2013, the last day for bills to be considered in their house of origin (full legislative calendar here).
SHB 1198: Training of Public Officials and Public Record Officers
This bill would require the Attorney General to develop and implement training programs for the Public Records Act and Open Public Meetings Act and requires members of governing bodies and elected officials (within 90 days of taking oath) and public records officers (at regular intervals) to complete the training courses.
SHB 1037: Cost Recovery Mechanism for Public Records Requests
This bill would authorize an agency to charge a fee to recover the cost of furnishing a public record, including an electronic record, where the request is for a commercial purpose and not otherwise exempted. However, an agency would be prohibited from assessing the fee if the requestor is a member of news media, a nonprofit organization, an educational institution, or certain other persons and entities entitled to obtain the requested information or exempted by the bill.
SHB 1128: Injunctions and Time Limitations on Public Records Requests
This bill would authorize an agency to seek an injunction against public records requests if certain conditions are met. These conditions include harassing or retaliatory requests, requests that create an undue burden, safety threats arising from requests, or requests that would assist criminal activity. An agency would also be able to limit the number of hours it devotes to responding to public records requests, if the agency makes certain documents publicly available and meets other conditions.
HB 1203: Exempting Personal Information Relating to Children
This bill would add a new exemption to the Public Records Act for personal information contained in any file maintained by the Department of Early Learning for a child enrolled in a licensed child care.
SHB 1418/HB 1763: Hours of Availability for Smaller Local Agencies
No action was taken on HB 1763. However, SHB 1418 would allow public agencies that do not maintain office hours for a minimum of 30 hours per week to post directions about how to make public records requests. This bill would also establish the date of receipt of a public records request as the date of such smaller agency’s next regularly scheduled meeting and requires the agency to respond to a request at the next regularly scheduled meeting.
SB 5171/ HB 1299/ HB 1298: Sunshine Committee Recommendations
No action was taken on HB 1299. However, SB 5171 and HB 1298 would add language to the Public Records Act clarifying the exemption for sexual assault victim information and exempting information contained in a local or regionally maintained gang database. SB 5171 also repeals the exemption for data on closed medical malpractice claims that may reveal the identity of a claimant, health care provider, health care facility, insuring entity, or self-insurer.
This bill would implement certain recommendations of the Sunshine Committee including clarifications on the personal information exemption and public access to applications for some executive positions.
The following bills failed to make the cutoff and are considered “dead.” However, a bill may be resurrected if it finds its way onto another bill with a broad enough title (although unlikely).
HB 1197: Public Comment on Proposed Action
This bill would have required the governing body of a public agency to allow for public comment on any proposed action.
HB 1714: Recordings of Executive Sessions
This bill would have authorized governing bodies to record closed executive session meetings and exempted the recordings from disclosure under the Public Records Act. A court would be authorized, upon finding that a public agency intentionally violated the Open Public Meetings Act, to order recording of closed executive sessions for two years.
HB 1019: Identification of Public Records Requestors
This bill would have amended the Public Records Act to make records available for inspection and copying only to an identified person.
SB 5436/HB 1449: Specific Prosecution and Defense Documents
These bills would have provided an exemption to the Public Records Act for victim impact statements and other documents and materials provided by defendants or their attorneys during communications regarding plea agreements and sentencing recommendations.
SB 5170/HB 1297: More Sunshine Committee Recommendations
These bills would have clarified what information resulting from background checks of a guardian ad litem may and may not be disclosed to the parties in a parent-child termination action.