Gov. Inslee vetoes public records bill passed by state legislators

Gov. Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday night vetoed the controversial public records bill passed by state legislators last week.

In a news release by the governor’s office, lawmakers and media plaintiffs said they would work together on a more deliberate approach to crafting transparency laws for the Legislature.

Inslee vetoed ESB 6617, a bill related to public disclosure obligations of the Legislature. According to the governor’s office news release, Inslee received a request Thursday evening from a number of legislators to veto the bill after they reached an agreement with media organizations about a process for working together on the issue.

All legislators in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace had voted for the bill.

Plaintiffs from the media lawsuit have agreed to join defendants in seeking a stay of proceedings in the trial court during the appeal, and further agree they will not try to enforce the trial court’s order during the appeal.

“The public’s right to government information is one we hold dearly in Washington,” Inslee said. “Transparency is a cornerstone of a democratic government, and I’m very proud of my administration’s record on public disclosure. I believe legislators will find they can fulfill their duties while being fully transparent, just like state and local governments all across Washington.”

Our online news partner The Seattle Times — one of the media organizations challenging the bill — said the move marks a stunning turnaround since last Friday, when legislators voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill exempting the Legislature from Washington’s voter-approved Public Records Act.

Lawmakers approved the legislation 48 hours after announcing it, and without public hearings or floor debate, The Times said.

But the swift action and lack of public input drew fierce blowback from state residents, open-government advocates and news organizations. According to The Times, by late Thursday afternoon, about 19,000 phone calls, emails and letters had poured into the governor’s office — almost of them urging Inslee oppose the bill

You can read the complete Times story here.

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