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New Open Government Legislation: The Odds & Ends


August 28, 2017 by Robert Sepler
Category: Open Public Meetings Act , Public Records Act

New Open Government Legislation: The Odds & Ends

The big-ticket open government legislation this year was certainly ESHB 1594 and EHB 1595, both of which amend the Public Records Act (PRA) in big ways. We’ve discussed the primary effects of these bills in three prior blog posts:

In addition to these big changes to the PRA, the legislature also made a number of other, comparatively minor, tweaks to both the PRA and the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA). This blog post will give a quick overview of these odds and ends.

New Basis for Holding an Executive Session

SHB 1417 added a new basis for a governing body to hold an executive session under the OPMA. Codified as RCW 42.30.110(1)(a)(ii), the legislation authorizes governing bodies to meet in executive session to consider information regarding:

  • The infrastructure and security of computer and telecommunications networks;
  • Computer and telecommunications security and service recovery plans;
  • Computer and telecommunications security risk assessments;
  • Computer and telecommunications security test results (to the extent that they identify specific system vulnerabilities); and
  • Information that if made public may increase the risk to the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of agency security or to information technology infrastructure or assets.

However, in order to hold an executive session under RCW 42.30.110(1)(a)(ii), the governing body must:

  1. Make any data security breach disclosure required under RCW 19.255.010 or RCW 42.56.590; and
  2. Legal counsel must be present during the executive session.

New Exemptions to the PRA

The legislature adopted a number of new exemptions to the PRA. Here is a brief summary of those most relevant to local governments in Washington State:

  • ESHB 1465, codified as RCW 42.56.430(3) and (4), exempts certain personal identifying information of persons involved in preventative measures regarding wolf interactions, or responding to reported wolf depredations.
  • SHB 1501, codified as RCW 42.56.240(17), exempts certain records of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) and the Washington State Patrol (WSP) related to firearm deal notifications when an application for the purchase or transfer of a firearm is denied based on ineligibility.
  • HB 1829, codified as RCW 42.56.420(4), exempts information regarding both public and private infrastructure and security of computer and telecommunications networks, including passwords, access codes and programs, security and service recovery plans, security risk assessments, and security test results to the extent that they identify specific system vulnerabilities.
  • SSB 5207, codified as RCW 42.56.250(10), exempts GPS data that would indicate the location of the residence of any public employee or volunteer using the GPS recording device.

What Else is New?

While not legislation, the Attorney General’s Office recently issued AGO 2017 No. 5, which addresses four questions that periodically arise regarding the release of information learned during an executive session. For more information on this AGO, see our Confidentiality and Executive Sessions blog post.

In addition, the Attorney General’s Office also recently filed a proposed update to the PRA Model Rules. The proposed update seeks to address a number of developments in state law and technology related to public records—developments that did not exist when the model rules were last revised in 2007. For the full text of the proposed changes to the model rules, click here. According to the Attorney General’s Office, the public may comment on the proposed changes by Sept. 29 through this online form, or by emailing Open Government Ombuds Nancy Krier at NancyK1@atg.wa.gov with the subject line “Model rules.” Public comment may also be submitted at an Olympia public hearing on Oct. 4 in the Legislative Building’s Columbia Room from 6 to 8 p.m.

Questions? Comments?

If you have questions about open government laws or other local government issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772. If you have comments about this blog post or other topics you would like us to write about, please email me at rsepler@mrsc.org.   

About Robert Sepler

Robert interned with MRSC for a year before joining the legal team as a legal consultant in August 2015. He has worked with several local governments as a legal intern, including the Port Townsend City Attorney’s Office as well as the Land Use Section of the Seattle City Attorney’s Office. A Washington native, he earned both a B.A. and a B.S degree from the University of Washington and graduated magna cum laude from the Seattle University School of Law, where he was the Managing Editor of the Seattle University Law Review.

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