Nancy Krier

Assistant Attorney General for Open Government
Office of the Attorney General

The Washington State Legislature convened its 2017 regular session on January 9.   The session is scheduled to end April 23.  It is always possible that the Governor could call a special session or sessions after that date.

The Legislature established cutoffs for bills to proceed during the regular session.  For example, the last day to pass bills out of the opposite house, with some exceptions, is April 12.

The Legislature is considering bills that will impact the Public Records Act at RCW 42.56.  Other bills address topics such as exemptions from disclosure (in the PRA or other statutes), records for certain agencies, and technology.  A few bill highlights are summarized below, in numerical order.  The list is not exhaustive.  Bills are described as of February 14; however, bills may be amended and new bills introduced.  “Amend” is used below to describe bills to amend laws and bills to add new sections to laws.

  • HB 1160/SB 5418.  The bills would amend the PRA and other laws to address the recommendations of the Public Records Exemptions Accountability Committee (“Sunshine Committee”) with respect to exemptions and laws concerning:  (1) consent to release of information about a child, (2) information about public agency employees, volunteers and their children, (3) pending investigations of unfair practices or employment discrimination, (4) trade secrets and proprietary information, and (5) bid documents.  A substitute bill passed the House of Representatives.
  • HB 1516.  The bill would amend RCW 43.105 to provide records for inspection and copying through a searchable central portal on a state web site.  It would also require local agencies to transmit all their public records in a digital format to the data storage system.
  • HB 1594.  The bill would amend the PRA to require: (1) public records officers to receive training on issues related to retention and production of electronic records; (2) agencies to offer to participate in mediation on listed PRA disagreements; (3) the Attorney General’s Office to establish a records consultation program for local governments; and, (4) the State Archives to establish a grant program for local agencies to improve technology, and to conduct a study on a portal for public records.
  • HB 1595.   The bill would amend the PRA to address costs for electronic records, allow denials of automated “bot” requests, and require PRA requests to be for identifiable records.
  • HB 1829.  The bill would amend the PRA to exempt information regarding the public and private infrastructure and security of computer and telecommunications networks.
  • SB 5207.  The substitute bill would amend the PRA to provide an exemption for GPS data that would indicate the location of the residence of any public employee or volunteer using the GPS recording device. (A similar bill passed in 2015 regarding GPS data of the residences of criminal justice employees).
  • SB 5710.  The bill would amend the PRA to allow a maximum $5,000 penalty if the court determines an agency acted in good faith in improperly denying a record or the right to receive a response within a reasonable amount of time.
  • SB 5784.  The bill would amend the PRA to exempt records of volunteers who have not been appointed by the agency to a board, commission, internship or supervisory role and when the records are not otherwise required to be retained by an agency.

Unless otherwise specified in a bill, a bill that passes both the House of Representatives and Senate and signed by the Governor is effective 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill passed.

To see the full text of all bills introduced in 2017 and to check on a bill’s status, visit the Legislature’s website under “Bill Information.”

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