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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wash. panel considers abandoning 'legislative privilege'

Washington's Sunshine Committee is considering a recommendation to abandon legislative exemption, The Spokesman-Review reported. Current state law "allows Senate and House clerks to keep secret anything that's not an 'official action' of the House or Senate." This means lawmakers can refuse to release e-mails or letters though they sometimes do voluntarily release them. Critics say doing away with the exemption will only lead lawmakers to start using personal computers and e-mail addresses to subvert the law.
It’s been nearly 40 years since Washington voters, seeking to make government more transparent, overwhelmingly passed a law requiring cities, counties and state agencies – with some exceptions – to open their meetings and files to the public.

Want to see how much everybody’s paid? You can. Want to see a mayor’s e-mails? They’re available. The travel receipts turned in by a city councilman on a trip? Help yourself.

Government officials who wrongly deny requests face fines of up to $100 a day. The small city of Mesa, north of the Tri Cities, was fined $246,000 for wrongly refusing records to a former mayor in a dispute that began in 2002. City leaders are considering bankruptcy, the Associated Press reported.

More here.

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