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Eyman to the rescue? Initiative king wants to make Legislature subject Public Records Act

Tim Eyman (left) is seen here outside the state Capitol in 2013. On Thursday, he proposed an initiative to make members of the Washington Legislature subject to the Public Records Act.
Tim Eyman (left) is seen here outside the state Capitol in 2013. On Thursday, he proposed an initiative to make members of the Washington Legislature subject to the Public Records Act. Olympian file photo

Longtime initiative promoter Tim Eyman has filed a potential 2018 initiative that would ensure the state Legislature is subject to the Public Records Act.

The proposal, which Eyman dubbed the “transparency in lawmaking act,” was submitted Thursday as Gov. Jay Inslee faces a deadline on whether to veto a controversial bill, SB 6177, which state lawmakers rushed through to exempt themselves from the records law.

That action came in response to a ruling by a judge, who sided with media organizations in a lawsuit and found that the Legislature is subject to the Public Records Act.

The bill just passed would exempt legislative offices from the Public Records Act, which applies to state agencies and local governments across the state. The bill would open up some records created after July 1 — such as calendars and email exchanges with lobbyists — but exempt previously existing records.

Eyman’s initiative, submitted to Secretary of State Kim Wyman’s office, says: “The state legislature is subject to the public records act and the communications and documents of legislators and staff must be made publicly available as a public record.”

He filed an earlier version of the same concept in January, and says he’s still shaping how the initiative would read if it moves toward the ballot, focusing on reversing the language lawmakers used to exempt themselves from the state records law.

“It just shows that they’re not the final word,” Eyman said, referring to lawmakers and Inslee. “There is another option. That is the voters and the initiative process.”

Eyman has a habit of submitting many initiatives (and multiple drafts of initiatives) in any given year — and seeing which ones generate support from activists and donors. Many do not go forward.

This year, Eyman has joined a chorus of open-government advocates, newspaper editorial boards and others in lambasting the Legislature’s records-law rewrite. He testified against SB 6177 at a legislative work session on the proposal.

To get on the ballot, any 2018 initiative must collect signatures from at least 259,622 registered voters by July 6, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

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