Public records should stay open to the public

  • Friday, March 2, 2018 9:43am
  • Opinion

We usually think of hidden political goings-on at the federal level. Back-door deals and the like. Donations from groups as diverse as the NRA to environmentalists giving money to lawmakers in exchange for votes down the road.

But we don’t think of that usually happening in our state. We have a part-time legislature, and most of the year they are our neighbors. We expect what they do to be out in the open – transparent. Not anymore.

Lawmakers for some time have been trying to shield themselves from the Public Records Act. They passed it once, and when a court decided that was in error they passed it again. Thanks to Gov. Jay Inslee’s veto it won’t become law. But that doesn’t let the lawmakers off the hook.

Voters need to remember what they did when elections take place this fall. All of the representatives and half of the senators will be trying to be re-elected. This, frankly, is the kind of move they usually don’t make in an election year. They usually play it safe and don’t pass controversial laws. This could be political suicide for many of them.

The main reason given for passing the law was having staff look for public records is too time consuming. Also, they say they are trying to protect our privacy.

Sadly, some records requests are frivolous. That system needs to be fixed, but not abandoned because it’s too hard. The Public Records Act is so important in our system of government. It is one of the only ways the people can make sure the government is being honest.

Their measure tried to keep the public from finding out information about their dealings with lobbyists and sexual harassment claims. That’s the very reason we need the law.

We have a story on this topic on Page 1 of today’s newspaper. We tried to get responses on why they voted the way they did from all 12 lawmakers that represent parts of Marysville and Arlington. Only four responded, despite a request that was made days ago.

That is disgusting. They are supposed to represent us.

We have to wonder did they really have no good reason to vote down open public records? If you can’t come up with a reason to tell your local newspaper, you probably shouldn’t vote that way.

We look forward to this fall when these lawmakers are up for election. If they want to have any chance at all, they better come up with a good answer as to why they don’t think they should have to answer to the Public Records Act.

Roll call

•Local lawmakers who voted in support of themselves following the Public Records Act: Sen. Wagoner and Rep. Harmsworth.

•Excused: Rep. Smith, death in the family.

•Those who responded to us: Reps. Robinson, Harmsworth, Lovick and Sells.

•Those who voted yes and didn’t respond: Sens. Bailey, McCoy and Hobbs, along with Reps. Hayes, Kristiansen and Eslick.

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