Washington State Capitol (Jerry Cornfield/Washington State Standard)
Those advising state lawmakers on ways to ensure Washington’s government operates transparently have grown pretty frustrated with the lack of interest in their advice.
It reached the point earlier this year when the Public Records Exemptions Accountability Committee considered asking lawmakers to disband the advisory panel, concerned it had become, in one member’s words, a “perpetual task force that goes nowhere.”
At a meeting Tuesday, members, still frustrated, agreed to make another run at getting lawmakers to heed the work they do.
The panel, known as the Sunshine Committee, reviews exemptions to the state’s Public Records Act and makes recommendations annually on carveouts that should stay, go or be reworked. But its suggestions have been largely ignored by lawmakers and the governor since its creation in 2007.
Members agreed Tuesday to seek greater flexibility on when they meet and the ability to present their findings to House and Senate committees before each session. They also will ask for funding to pay for staff to research and prepare analyses on exemptions, chores mostly carried out today by unpaid Sunshine Committee members.
The genesis of the ideas came from Sen. Jeff Wilson, R-Longview, a committee member, who said the work of the group is too valuable to abandon.
“I am not ready to surrender the ship,” he said in Tuesday’s meeting. “We want to be heard. The best way to be heard is to get in front of those committees.”
Wilson said he’ll draft legislation concerning meeting dates and presentations, and request funding for the panel in next year’s supplemental state budget.
Also Tuesday, the committee approved a draft of its 2023 report due to lawmakers next month. It contains recommendations on exemptions reviewed this year plus restates suggestions from reports filed the last three years.
Linda Krese, the outgoing chair and a former Snohomish County Superior Court judge, said getting the chance to present their ideas directly to lawmakers would be valuable.
“I don’t think a lot of people are reading our [annual] report when it goes out,” she said.
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