Editorial: Washington lawmakers make welcome hike in penalties for violating open meetings law

Washington state lawmakers took a positive step this spring toward making sure public business is conducted in the open.

The state’s Open Public Meetings Act sets strict standards for the governing bodies of public agencies. With only narrow exceptions, discussions and decisions by public agencies must be open to the public.

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Op-ed: Fine tune, but don’t overhaul Washington state’s Public Records Act

As the voters said when adopting the Public Records Act in 1972: “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies that serve them.”

The people use public records to learn what their government is up to, so they can maintain control.

But under an evolving proposal in the state House of Representatives, records requests that are now answered promptly could languish at the bottom of a pile, and much of what government does could be hidden behind a wall of bureaucracy.

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Washington State Senate passes bill to strengthen open meetings law

The Washington State Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s agency-request bill to increase transparency in government by enhancing penalties for violations of Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).

The OPMA requires that all meetings of multimember governing bodies of local and state public agencies be open and accessible to the public.

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Ports’ secret meetings face court challenge

An open government advocate said Thursday he is filing suit in King County asking a judge to declare a series of secret meetings between the port commissions of Tacoma and Seattle illegal.

Arthur West, an Olympia resident who has made a career of challenging government secrecy, said he believes commission members have wrongly held private meetings to discuss how the two ports can improve their competitive stance in the maritime business.

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Lift shroud of secrecy from employment contract talks

Imagine that the governor is holding a series of secret closed-door negotiations with a company that could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer expenses. Now imagine that the same company secretly meeting with the governor is also a campaign contributor. Also imagine that the Legislature is barred from changing the details of an agreement negotiated in secret with the governor and can only vote up or down on funding the final proposal.

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Public Records Help Washington Watchdogs Sniff Out Corruption

From KUOW.org:

"Trust and confidence in governmental institutions is at an all–time low. High on the list of causes of this citizen distrust are secrecy in government and the influence of private money on governmental decision making."

It sounds like it could have been written by Occupy Seattle protesters. Or maybe by the tea party. But the statement actually accompanied a ballot measure that Washington voters passed back in 1972.

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Washington State paying record amount for records lawsuits

From NWCN.com:

In the state of Washington if a citizen requests a public record, it should be turned over unless there is a compelling reason not to do so. That's the law.  But investigators from KREM 2's Seattle affiliate, KING 5, have found more people than ever are accusing the state of breaking that law and it's costing taxpayers millions.

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Washington Senate ponders limiting public records requests

From tri-cityherald.com:

OLYMPIA, Wash. — State lawmakers are exploring a plan that could limit how governments respond to requests for public documents, allowing them to get a court order if they can prove that a request creates a "significant burden."

The measure discussed by lawmakers Tuesday would also permit agencies to adopt policies limiting the amount of time devoted to responding to records requests.

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