Small Town News


Legislative Day opens doors to elected officials

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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Newspapers have long served as stewards of open government. In Washington, supporting open government means monitoring legislation — and often opposing or supporting specific bills — related to the state's Public Records Act.

Legislators last week met with members of the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association and leaders from other newspapers during Legislative Day. The daylong event, which took place at the state Capitol's Legislative Building in Olympia, gave newspaper publishers, editors and reporters a chance to speak with state senators, representatives and elected officials about matters relating to open government.

Each year, legislators — Republican and Democrat — sponsor bills that aim to shed more light on government affairs or limit access to public records.

During last week's event, Reps. Bruce Chandler (R-Granger), Terry Nealey (R-Dayton) and other legislators discussed bills going through committees with representatives from newspapers covering communities as small as La Conner and as large as Seattle.

While disagreements were common, they were also constructive. Legislators and newspaper representatives shared their perspectives on each of the topics, which ranged from public records to marijuana revenue. The day culminated with a dinner at the Governor's Mansion with Gov. Jay Inslee and his wife, Trudi.

One topic that saw some heated debate concerned House Bill 2576, which would allow local municipalities to limit how much time they spend on records requests. Some agencies say that they don't have the necessary staff to deal with broad public record requests — some of which are from private, out-of-state companies. HB 2576 would allow these agencies to charge a fee for records that would be used for commercial purposes.

Most newspaper representatives, including Seattle Times editor Kathy Best and media law attorney Michele Earl-Hubbard, took issue with restricting access to public records in any way, citing specific examples of how this bill could be altered whereas to not penalize citizens who make reasonable public records requests.

We want our readers to know that we advocate open government because you deserve it. Ultimately, having better access to your government — whether it's through public meetings or public records — gives you power.

After all, elected officials work for you.

You should hold them accountable.

Copyright 2016 Shelton-Mason County Journal, Shelton, Washington. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: February 18, 2016

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