Assistant Attorney General for Open Government
Office of the Attorney General
The Washington State Legislature adjourned its 2018 regular session March 8. For the first time since 2014, no special sessions were convened.
The Legislature passed more than 20 bills involving or potentially involving various types of public agency records or information. The new legislation concerns newsworthy matters such as legislative records, voter records, the “#MeToo” movement, and body-worn camera recordings, to name a few.
The Attorney General’s Office will post a list and links by bill number on the office’s Open Government Training Web Page under Lesson 2 (Open Public Records – Other Resources).
Summarized below are a few highlights of a handful of bills delivered to the Governor. “Amend” refers to acts amending current law as well as those adding new sections. This list is not exhaustive. This information is a brief summary of only some sections; review the full legislation for specific provisions and citations. Some signed bills have not been assigned session law chapter numbers as of March 28. To check on a bill’s current status visit the Legislature’s website under “Bill Information.”
Unless otherwise specified new legislation is effective 90 days after adjournment of the session in which the bill passed (June 7, 2018 for this year’s regular session). Some bills or sections of bills have different effective dates.
- 1513 – Youth voter registration sign-up information. This act amends RCW 42.56.230, RCW 42.56.250 and Title 29A RCW. It is one of several 2018 enactments governing elections. This act exempts from disclosure certain voter registration information until the person reaches age 18, with exceptions. It also exempts the information related to voter registration from inclusion on the jury source list until the person reaches age 18. Chap. 109, 2018 Laws.
- 2097 – Disclosure of religious affiliation of individuals. This act amends RCW 42.56 and RCW 49.60. It limits the authority of government agencies to take a variety of actions with respect to certain information about religious, beliefs, practices, or affiliation. It exempts from the PRA public records that contain personally identifying information about an individual’s religious beliefs, practices, or affiliation. Chap. __, 2018 Laws.
- 2611 – Privilege for peer support group counselors. This act amends the privileges statute at RCW 5.60.060. The act establishes a testimonial privilege for certain communications made by a limited authority law enforcement officer to a peer support group counselor while receiving counseling. Chap. 165, 2018 Laws.
- 2700 – Handling of child forensic interview and child interview digital recordings. This act amends RCW 42.56.240 and RCW 26.44. This act exempts from the PRA recordings of child forensic interviews that depict or describe allegations of child abuse, child neglect, or exposure to violence, except by court order. The act requires that recordings of child interviews disclosed in court proceedings are subject to a protective order unless the court finds good cause that the interview should not be subject to such order. Chap. 171, 2018 Laws.
- 5996 – Disclosure and discussion of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace. This act amends RCW 49.44. The act is one of four enactments sparked by the #MeToo movement. See also SB 6068. This new act prohibits employers from requiring an employee, as a condition of employment, to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) that prevents the employee from disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault occurring in the workplace, at work-related events, or between employees, or between an employer and an employee, off the employment premises. There is an exception to the prohibition for HR staff investigating claims and who must maintain confidentiality. Chap. 117, 2018 Laws.
- 6068 – Applicability of nondisclosure agreements in civil actions for sexual harassment or assault.This act amends RCW 4.24. The act provides that in civil lawsuits and administrative actions relating to sexual harassment or sexual assault, a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) does not affect discovery or the availability of witness testimony for past instances of sexual harassment or sexual assault. NDAs include arbitration agreements or decisions. Chap. 118, 2018 Laws.
- 6027 – Discovery of privileged health care information and communications in noneconomic damages claims. This act amends RCW 49.60. The act provides that by requesting non-economic damages under the Washington Law Against Discrimination, a claimant does not place their health at issue or waive any health care privilege except for defined circumstances and for defined records/communications. Chap. 70, 2018 Laws.
- 6032 – Task force on legislative records. This legislation is the 2017-2019 supplemental appropriations act. Sections 925(14) and 603(25) create and fund a legislative task force to establish standards for maintaining and disclosing legislative branch records. The William D. Ruckelshaus Center will facilitate. The task force findings are due December 1, 2018. Chap. __, 2018 Laws. Another bill addressing access to legislative records, SB 6617, had passed both houses but was vetoed. Meanwhile, several proposed initiatives concerning access to legislative records have also been filed. See the Secretary of State’s website.
- 6408 – Body-worn camera recordings. This act amends RCW 42.56.240, RCW 10.109.010, and RCW 10.109.030. Under this act, expiration dates in prior legislation are removed and the provisions in the PRA applicable to body-worn camera recordings are no longer limited to recordings made between June 9, 2016, and July 1, 2019 by a covered jurisdiction. “Intimate image” is defined. After the required retention period for body-worn camera recordings, law enforcement or corrections agency may destroy the records in accordance with the applicable records retention schedule. Chap. __, 2018 Laws.