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Monday, January 7, 2008

Proposed Legislation to Increase Open Meetings Fine to $1000

The Tri-City Herald reports that Rep. Larry Haler (R-Richland) will introduce a bill in the upcoming 2008 legislative session to increase the penalty for violating the Open Public Meetings Act from the current $100 to $1000.

The article quotes an Allied Law Group attorney:

"'I think the Open Public Meetings Act in many ways has ceased to function as a practical law,' said Greg Overstreet, an attorney specializing in the state's sunshine laws. He said 'there's no meaningful deterrent' for violating the law and that the threat of a $1,000 fine would get officials' attention. 'One hundred dollars might have been a lot of money in 1971 when this law was written but it isn't any more,' he said. 'I think this bill will change behavior. I think it would deter a number of violations.'"

This is a great bill. You should send Rep. Haler a quick email and let him know that you appreciate his work on this. He will be taking a lot of abuse from the local government lobby so he needs to hear positive thoughts from you.