1995 tweak to law exempts state lawmakers from disclosure

first_imgOLYMPIA — When rejecting requests for everything from lawmakers’ daily calendars to emails to disciplinary reports, legislative attorneys routinely cite language quietly added more than two decades ago to Washington’s public records law. So while the records of elected officials ranging from school board members to county commissioners are subject to public disclosure — as are the records of statewide elected officials and those in state agencies — state lawmakers point to a legislative tweak passed without fanfare in 1995 as the genesis for their self-proclaimed exemption.Former Attorney General Rob McKenna said he never liked the idea that lawmakers’ records were exempt from disclosure.“It’s inconsistent to treat this class of elected officials differently than every other,” he said.The 1995 language says public records held by the secretary of the Senate and the chief clerk of the House are considered “legislative records” as defined under a 1971 statute. That 1971 definition — which predates the 1972 voter-approved public records act — says legislative records don’t include “reports or correspondence made or received by or in any way under the personal control of the individual members of the Legislature.” The amended language — which was not in several earlier versions of the 1995 bill — appeared in a “striking amendment” that was added on the House floor, meaning there was no public hearing on the language. A brief debate on the House floor at the time makes no mention of the effect the change would have on requesters. The measure ultimately passed both the House and Senate unanimously in the final days of that year’s legislative session.last_img

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