Gov vetoes public records exemption bill

FORREST HOLT, Evergreen news editor

Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed a bill Thursday night that would have exempted state lawmakers’ communications from the Public Records Act.

“While a wide majority of lawmakers voted for Engrossed Senate Bill 6617 as a genuine effort to create clarity and increase transparency, the process was seriously flawed,” Inslee said in his veto message.

The House Republican Caucus responded to Inslee’s veto by saying he and Democrats “scheduled a hasty joint work session and vote in both chambers.”

House Democrats responded with a letter saying they recognized their constituents’ anger with the process by which the bill was passed, but did not mention the bill’s contents.

Several media outlets filed a lawsuit against the state government last year, saying withholding lawmakers’ calendars, emails and disciplinary records was illegal. A Thurston County judge ruled in favor of the media outlets in January. Legislators then scrambled to change the law in an attempt to continue withholding certain documents, passing the bill about four days with little public comment.

In a news release, Inslee said he would have approved the bill if it passed with more than enough votes to override a veto, which it did. But he ultimately decided to veto, saying the process “failed to meet public expectations for openness.”

“I believe legislators will find they can fulfill their duties while being fully transparent,” Inslee said in a news release.