Monday, August 31, 2009

Sunshine Committee votes to repeal legislative records exemption

At long last the state Sunshine Committee voted to repeal the Legislature's exemption from the public records act. Committee Chair Tom Carr originally proposed the resolution on March 18. By a 8 to 1 vote: The Committee recommends that the legislature eliminate the Legislative exemption, which excludes from public scrutiny personal records of the legislature, including e-mails, correspondence, except when designated as a public record by a “official action of the Senate or House of Representatives.” Every other legislative body in the state of Washington is fully subject to the public records act. There is no principled reason why the state legislature should be exempt . . . READ MORE

Friday, August 28, 2009

Did TABOR destroy Colorado?

This November Washingtonians will vote on Initiative 1033. The measure is sponsored by Tim Eyman and would create a new revenue limit for the state and several local governments with the goal of annually reducing property taxes. Due to the similarities between I-1033 and Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), opponents of I-1033 have sought to compare the impact of TABOR in Colorado to what voters can expect to happen in Washington if I-1033 is enacted. Without debating the details of I-1033, it is worth considering the claims about TABOR's impact in Colorado . . . READ MORE

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Open Government Task Force Members

State Auditor Brian Sonntag announced yesterday he is creating an Open Government Task Force with Attorney General Rob McKenna. The purpose of the new Task Force is to study and make recommendations on the creation of an administrative board to rule on complaints of violations regarding the state's open government laws. The Task Force meetings are scheduled for October 5, 2009 and November 2, 2009 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Attorney General's Office in Olympia. Here is a list of the Task Force members . . . READ MORE

State Auditor critical of school bond practices

Liv Finne has a post on the WPC blog about the State Auditor's latest performance audit. Here is an excerpt: "On August 24, 2009, the state auditor issued its performance audit report examining school district practices for selling bonds to finance school building and other projects. The audit found that: 'Had school districts been following best practices on bond issues published by the Government Finance Officers Association, they would have saved $44 million to $79 million between 2003 and 2007.' The auditor recommends that the Superintendent of Public Instruction would be in the best position to facilitate guidance and training related to bond issues by bringing together school districts, educational service districts and staff from the Office of the Treasurer to improve guidance and develop training. Perhaps a better idea would be to centralize this function in the Treasurer's office" . . . READ MORE

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

PDC holds work session on enforcing open government laws

An all-star panel participated in a Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) work session today discussing how the public records and open meetings acts should be enforced. The focus of the work session was HB 1784 introduced during the 2009 Legislative Session by Representatives Liias, Chase, Hasegawa, Appleton and Ormsby. The bill received a hearing but was not voted on. PDC staff highlighted similar open government enforcement efforts in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. The discussion centered around common themes. From the citizen advocates: It is too hard for requestors to take on governmental entities in an open government dispute. From the government lawyers: There need to be more costs/restrictions on citizens to avoid abuse of the laws and burdening governmental entities . . . READ MORE

JLARC releases annual report

The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) issued its annual report today. According to JLARC: "Between 2001 and 2008, JLARC issued over 200 recommendations directly to state agencies. Some 83% of these recommendations have been implemented to date and another 11% are in progress . . . The amount of benefits JLARC produces each year that are either financial or non-financial depends on the assignments it receives from the Legislature. JLARC has historically achieved significant financial savings from its recommendations. The savings impact from 1990 to 2008 is $494 million in one-time savings and $91 million in annual ongoing savings. In recent years, assignments from the Legislature have focused more on non-financial objectives." Additional details here: Legislative Auditor’s Annual Report

Legislative records exemption on the clock

The state Sunshine Committee may finally take action at its meeting next Monday on the issue of legislative records and the public records act. Here is the draft agenda. Additional information here: Legislative records exemption vote postponed again