Access Washington Public Records Bill Stalls in House

The bill would curb abuses of the state Public Records Act by allowing public agencies to limit the number of hours devoted to public records requests.

by Andy Porter, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin / March 14, 2016
Sponsors of the bill include state Rep. Terry Nealy. Flickr/Washington State House Republicans

(TNS) — A bill that backers hoped would address what they saw as flaws in the state Public Records Act appears dead for now in the Legislature.

Sponsors of House Bill 2576, which included state Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, said it would curb abuses by allowing public agencies to limit the number of hours devoted to public records requests under certain conditions.

The bill would have also set up a commission to resolve disputes and allow a fee to be charged for those using the requests for commercial purposes.

The specific abuses sponsors cited included so-called “fishing expeditions” and retaliation requests that cost governments “so much that they’ve been forced to reduce public services. In some cases, they are pushed to the edge of bankruptcy,” Nealey said in a Feb. 7 guest column in the Union-Bulletin.

The measure was passed out of the House Committee on General Government & Information Technology, but appears to have hit a roadblock after being referred to the House Rules Committee, where it has been placed on a list of bills that appear unlikely for floor consideration.

Nealey said Thursday that although the bill could still be brought out of the Rules Committee the possibility was “highly unlikely.”

Although the bill appears dead for now, Nealey said he hoped to reintroduce the legislation next year after incorporating changes to overcome objections. Opponents say the bill could diminish the public’s ability to seek transparency and accountability in government.

“We’re still working diligently on the language,” Nealey said.

©2016 Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.