Mason County News
Governor Vetoes Controversial Public Records Bill
At the state Capitol in Olympia Thursday, lawmakers from both parties admitted a mistake and asked the governor to use his veto pen on a bill most of them had voted for a few days earlier. Dan Frizzell from the Washington State House Democratic Caucus has more.
FITZGIBBON: “It’s very unusual for us to ask for a veto for something that we supported, but in this case, on an issue of this magnitude, we felt like it was important to listen to our constituents and ask for another shot at getting this right.”
By “unusual,” state Representative Joe Fitzgibbon means no one remembers the last time it might have happened. Senate Bill 6617 would have opened up thousands of legislative emails, letters and text messages, as well as lawmakers’ calendars, to public scrutiny. But whatever was good in the bill was overshadowed by the fact that it was rushed to a vote in 48 hours without much in the way of public input and review. It was a textbook case of bad optics, and lawmakers asked for and received the governor’s veto late Thursday night.
FITZGIBBON: “I think there were some really positive steps forward for transparency in the bill, but it was very hard for us to convey that to our constituents. I heard from hundreds of my constituents, and we decided that the right thing to do was to hit the reset button and to ask the governor for a veto so that we can start this process over and do a better job of listening to our constituents this time around.”
With the original bill retired, West Seattle Democrat Fitzgibbon says the next step is to work with the news media, open-government advocates, the governor and the attorney general to craft a new bill for 2019, one that shines a bright light on the inner workings of the Washington Legislature. In Olympia, I’m Dan Frizzell.
Inslee vetoes ESB 6617 – Legislature and media agree to discuss path forward
Gov. Jay Inslee tonight vetoed ESB 6617, a bill related to public disclosure obligations of the Legislature. Inslee received a request Thursday evening from a number of legislators to veto the bill after they reached an agreement with media organizations about a process for working together on the issue.
Plaintiffs from the media lawsuit have agreed to join defendants in seeking a stay of proceedings in the trial court during the appeal, and further agree they will not try to enforce the trial court’s order during the appeal. The governor’s veto message and the veto request from the Legislature and media plaintiffs are linked below.
Following his veto, Inslee issued the following statement:
“The public’s right to government information is one we hold dearly in Washington. Transparency is a cornerstone of a democratic government, and I’m very proud of my administration’s record on public disclosure. I believe legislators will find they can fulfill their duties while being fully transparent, just like state and local governments all across Washington.
“I want to thank the legislators who have reconsidered this bill and asked me for this veto tonight. Since this bill passed, my office and lawmakers have heard an unprecedented level of response from the public. Those messages were heard loudly and clearly. I now hope lawmakers, the media, and other stakeholders will work together to resolve differences through a process the public can have faith in.
“I believe the Legislature’s overwhelming vote on the bill was a good faith attempt to increase disclosure and transparency. Though I expressed concerns about the outline of the bill, I did tell legislators I would let the bill become law if they delivered it with enough votes to override a veto. However, that was before I saw the process which failed to meet public expectations for openness and delivered a bill that fell short.
“I appreciate that both sides have been open to discussions during the past few days and will work together to find the right approach to this important issue.”