Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo

Despite ruling on Public Records Act, we need to keep a close eye on Olympia

Washington Supreme Court upholds that state legislators are subject to the Public Records Act.

  • Thursday, January 2, 2020 12:33pm
  • Opinion

By Patrick Grubb, President, Washington Newspaper Publishers Association

In 1869, the Daily Cleveland Herald quoted lawyer John Godfrey Saxe as saying, “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”

That saying, or variants of it, have been repeated so often that it has become accepted knowledge. The fact is, though, the more we know about the origin and development of laws, the better off we are. Bad laws get created in back rooms, through undisclosed emails, riding on golf carts and over drinks at the country club bar. Good laws are created in the open and under the gaze of the public.

We all know how money influences elections and politicians, how a scratch on the back here eases an itch on a back there. Human nature being what it is, this is the world we live in.

And that being the case, it is good news that the Washington Supreme Court upheld in a 7-2 vote on Dec. 19 that individual state legislators are subject to the Public Records Act and must disclose records such as calendars, staff complaints and emails from lobbyists etc. upon request from members of the public.

The decision came as a result of a lawsuit filed by a coalition of media organizations in 2017. The coalition, led by the Associated Press and the Seattle Times, included the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association (WNPA) and Sound Publishing. The judge in that case, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Chris Lanese, ruled in January 2018 that the records of individual Washington state lawmakers are subject to public records law. Not only did the Legislature appeal that decision, it also rammed through a bill in 48 hours that would have exempted its members from the Public Records Act.

The bill was vetoed by Gov. Jay Inslee after he received close to 20,000 emails, calls and letters from the public after the media raised a ruckus. Another bill proposed by Democratic lawmakers was withdrawn in 2019 after being subjected to withering criticism.

The continuing efforts of lawmakers to escape public scrutiny obligates the media to keep a close eye on Olympia to make certain the lawmakers don’t once again try to pass one over us. The WNPA has two legislative reporter interns, Cameron Sheppard from Washington State University and Leona Vaughn from University of Washington, beginning next week who will be our watchdogs during the session.

Although the Public Records Act could stand some improvement, it still allows the public a window into the machinery of lawmaking and that is a good thing. Just like we want to know what’s in the sausages we’re eating, we should know what’s behind the laws that are being passed in our names.

More in Opinion

White nationalism comes to Renton

Let’s just get down to brass tacks — Patriot Front is a… Continue reading

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Despite ruling on Public Records Act, we need to keep a close eye on Olympia

Washington Supreme Court upholds that state legislators are subject to the Public Records Act.

Republicans chose political power over the Constitution

I’m astounded and appalled that members of both parties in Congress were… Continue reading

The people who use SNAP are already working

SNAP and other welfare benefits help working, low-income families while boosting the economy

From left, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., announce they are pushing ahead with two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — charging he corrupted the U.S. election process and endangered national security in his dealings with Ukraine, at the Capitol in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Will we feel different when Trump is impeached? Probably not

As a historic vote looms in the House, attitudes of the public are pretty hardened on this subject.

Guest Opinion: Eyman’s run an election wildcard for 2020

We knew it would happen. It’s a wonder it took this long.… Continue reading

Growing up as a Republican

I grew up in a Republican home. My family valued honesty, dependability,… Continue reading

Discerning fact from opinion

It can be more difficult than people first think, according to the Pew Research Center.

Why we need media literacy classes now, more than ever

Education on how to find authentic, factual information in today’s digital landscape is a must for future generations

Letters to the editor for the week of Nov. 15

Reader’s child enjoys stories about community Dear editor, I just read “It’s… Continue reading

George Will and ‘conservative sensibilities’

The journalist is a Constitutional Originalist, but the framers’ sole focus wasn’t solely freedom.

Container math: Divide your roots to multiply your plants

By the month of November gardeners and gardening goals have moved indoors.… Continue reading