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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Public Records Show ... Number of Federal Limos Soars

From public records, we learn that there has been a 73% increase in the number of federal limousines purchased by the federal government since President Obama took office.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Example of Why Open Meetings Matter

Peter Callaghan at The (Tacoma) News Tribune writes this piece on a controversy about digital billboards in Tacoma and open meetings.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Here is a piece from Peter Callaghan of The (Tacoma) News Tribune about a decision to move the location of an open meeting--a decision apparently not made in an open meeting.

"Open-records law violators now face fines as low as $0"

Here is a blog piece by Scott North of The (Everett) Herald regarding the $0 penalty. Very nicely done. The title of the piece says it all.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Medical Pot Bill Has Public Records Exemption

Sigh. Why do so many pieces of legislation have secrecy clauses in them?

SB 5955 is about medical marijuana. However, the bill has a provision making the names of medical marijuana providers exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act.

Is there some concern that medical marijuana providers will be burned out of their clinics by mobs of violent anti-pot crusaders? We've never actually seen any.

It is vital for the public, especially the media, to be able to know who medical marijuana providers are to see if they are legitimate or rather just selling marijuana without regard to medical condition.

The bill is now being considered in committee.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Armageddon Averted: Public Records Act Penalties Now As Low As $0

(Pardon the sarcasm, but some things are so absurd that there is no other way to communicate them.)

A financial melt down of state and local government has been averted.

The local government lobby and Attorney General Rob McKenna finally got what they said would prevent the world from ending: a possible $0 Public Records Act daily penalty instead of the whopping $5 daily penalty usually assessed against them. No more defaulting on municipal bonds as a result of public records penalties. Whew.

HB 1899 was signed into law by Gov. Gregoire, another staunch supporter of open government. Here is the Seattle Times story on it. And a Bellingham Herald piece on it.

Now the government lobby should no longer have any reason to complain about the Public Records Act destroying civilization.

By the way, HB 1899 passed out of the House without a hearing on its merits. More excellent law making. Here is what Jason Mercier from the Washington Policy Center had to say about it, with a hat tip to the Center for Justice:

For the rest of the story on HB 1899:

As the executive session ended, the Committee’s chairman, Democrat Sam Hunt from Thurston County, appeared confused. After a long pause in which he conferred with a staff person, Hunt apologetically announced: “House bill 1899 has not had a hearing, so if somebody wants to testify on 1899, you will get the option to do it in a backwards fashion, after we voted the bill out of committee and if one convinces us, we can always reconsider and re-vote on it. Sorry about that.”

Here is the TVW of the exchange:

Starts at 56:20 with staff informing him they didn’t hold a hearing before passing.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fabulous TNT Editorial on Public Records Hutzpah

The Yiddish word "hutzpah" describes the gall of someone who, for example, murders their parents and then begs for mercy from a judge because they are an orphan. Hutzpah is using a self-inflicted problem to try and get out of the consequences of it.

The (Tacoma) News Tribune perfectly describes the public records version of hutzpah in this editorial.

Public officials who really dislike transparency will often complain how much time and money it costs them to provide public records. (Well, first of all, providing public records is part of their job and we pay lots of money for them to do it. But anyway.)

The hutzpah is when the complaining officials themselves are the very reason there are so many requests to begin with. They do various questionable things that legitimately raise questions among the public--then when the officials receive public records requests to find out what they're up to, they complain about getting the requests. They should look at their own actions and see if maybe that has something to do with all the requests.

This TNT editorial describes this phenomenon as it relates to the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam. A magnificent editorial.