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2016 Legislature: Recap of Some Public Agency Records and Open Meetings Bills

On March 29 the Washington Legislature adjourned sine die, meaning “without a day” specified to reconvene. The 2016 Legislature considered bills that will impact or would have impacted public agency records and meetings. 

Below are highlights of some of these bills that may be of interest to local governments.  For more information on these and other bills, visit the legislature’s website.

After session law chapter numbers are assigned, the Attorney General’s Office will also post a list of 2016 records and meetings enacted legislation on its open government training website

Unless a bill or bill section specifies otherwise, bills passed during the regular session are effective June 9. Governor Inslee convened a special session March 10. Bills passed during the special session are effective June 28, including bills that were vetoed but where the Legislature overrode the veto during the special session.

Examples of bills that passed:

  • Body Cams. EHB 2362 amends the Public Records Act (PRA) at RCW 42.56 and adds a new chapter to Title 10 RCW (criminal procedure). Among other things, the bill establishes PRA provisions governing requests for and disclosure of certain body-worn camera recordings made by law enforcement and corrections officers while in the course of their official duties. It requires law enforcement and corrections agencies that deploy body-worn cameras to adopt policies covering the use of those cameras.  It also establishes a task force to review and report on the use of body-worn cameras. The Governor signed the bill April 1. 

  • Office of Data Privacy and Data Protection. SHB 2875 creates the Office of Data Privacy and Data Protection within the Office of the Chief Information Officer at Washington Technology Solutions, a state agency. Among other duties, the office must serve as a resource to local governments and the public on data privacy and protection concerns. This includes developing and promoting the dissemination of best practices for the collection and storage of personally identifiable information, establishing and conducting a training program or programs for local governments, and educating consumers about the use of personally identifying information on mobile and digital networks and measures that can help protect such information. The Governor signed the bill April 1.

  • City Retirement Board Financial/Proprietary Information. SB 6170 amends the PRA to exempt financial and commercial information relating to a municipal employee retirement board's investment in private funds if public disclosure of that information would reasonably be expected to result in a loss to either the retirement fund or to providers of that information. While the Governor had vetoed this bill, the Legislature overrode the veto during the special session. 

  • Cloud Service Providers – CJIS Agreements. ESSB 6356 amends the PRA to exempt certain information relating to a private cloud service provider that has entered into a Criminal Justice Information Systems Agreement. That information includes personally identifiable information of employees and other security information of the cloud service provider. The Governor signed the bill March 31. 

  • Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System. SSHB 2530 requires the Washington State Patrol to create and operate the Statewide Sexual Assault Kit Tracking System. The Department of Commerce is authorized to accept private donations to fund the testing of previously un-submitted sexual assault kits and training for sexual assault nurse examiners. The bill amends the PRA to exempt records and information contained in the tracking system. The Governor signed the bill April 1. 

  • Testimonial Privilege for Alcohol and Drug Recovery Sponsors. SSB 6498 amends RCW 5.60.060 (privileges) to create a new testimonial privilege for sponsors providing guidance, emotional support, and counseling to a person participating in an alcohol or drug addiction recovery fellowship. While the Governor had vetoed this bill, the Legislature overrode the veto during the special session. 

  • Open Public Meetings Act Penalties. SB 6171, an Attorney General-request bill, amends the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) at RCW 42.30 to increase the current $100 penalty to $500 for a governing body member’s knowing violation. The bill adds a new $1,000 penalty for a subsequent knowing violation.  The Governor signed the bill March 29. 

Examples of bills that did not pass:

  • Public Records Requests to Local Agencies. HB 2576 would have, among other things, authorized a local agency to adopt PRA procedures limiting the number of hours it devotes to responding to public records requests, and procedures to prioritize records requests. It would have also established a Public Records Commission, authorizing local agencies and requesters to seek Commission resolution of PRA disputes. 

  • Out-of-State Requesters. HB 2290 would have limited PRA requests to requests from in-state persons, businesses, and members of the news media. 

  • Information Technology Security – Executive Session. HB 1561 would have permitted a governing body subject to the OPMA to meet in executive session to consider infrastructure and the security of computer and telecommunications networks and other security information.

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Photo of Nancy Krier

About Nancy Krier

Nancy Krier wrote for MRSC as a guest author. She was the Washington Attorney General’s Office Open Government Assistant Attorney General for many years before retiring in 2020.