Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Legislature ignores Public Records Act requirements, hoping Supreme Court bails them out.

Those paying attention may recall that last year, a Thurston county judge ruled that the Public Records Act (PRA) applied to the Legislature as much as all other state agencies.

Now, the PRA was put into place by the voters as far back as 1972 (I-276) with a view towards transparency to those these people work for.

Allegedly.

And, like so many laws the people pass, the Legislative reaction to the voice of the people is simply to ignore it.  Initially, they come out in favor of many of these efforts, and they count on the leftist, Seattle-centric Supreme Court to get rid of the more conservative efforts.

This is what they've been doing since this initiative became law, legislative arrogance being what it is.

That was the way it worked since then; I was personally involved in one particularly memorable attempt to pry the lid off Legislative immunity from this effort, when then-Rep. Marc Boldt involved himself in an issue involving a rather notorious sham prosecution of a mother accused of raping her own children... and then serving 11 years for a crime, we concluded, she had not committed.

Oh, but people got mad over THAT one.

I was bombarded with demands to see everything related to that case that we had, and refused to obey any of those demands.

That was, at the time (98?) what I had been told the law allowed: Legislative immunity.

Until early last year.

Early last year, a Thurston county judge ruled, rightfully, I believe, that the PRA ALSO applied to every aspect of the Legislature, just as it did to every other state agency.

These posts, in order, explain the situation and my response to the legislatures shameful, bi-partisan efforts to continue the status-quo, an effort so repugnant that stunningly, the normally clueless Governor went on to veto in its entirety.

Briefly, these scum introduced this bill one day, refused to hold any public hearings on the bill, and by close of business the NEXT DAY, the bill had passed both Houses for presentation to the governor.

Legislatively, that is moving at the speed of light in a vacuum. In my 6 years on staff, I had never seen anything like it.  And, as expected, it hid everything from public scrutiny as these scum carved out an unconstitutional exemption for itself (look up "ex post facto.")

The depth of the betrayal of SB6617: the Legislature's speed of sound bill to remove itself from public scrutiny.




As I said, Inslee (in an admittedly rare moment of sobriety) read the tea leaves and vetoed the entire bill.

Which begs the issue: what did they do to address this issue THIS year?

Guess.

C'mon, I know you can do it.

Here, let me end the suspense:

They did nothing.

Now, the moment word on the judge's ruling got out, I filed a FOIA on my Senator, Ann "Gas Tax" Rivers.

Beginning in 2015, Rivers "reframed" her thinking...and representation... to more closely reflect the representation of a downtown Seattle district than the 18th Legislative District. 

She has been instrumental in massive gas tax and tab fee increases, massive property tax increases, and the resurrection of the hated CRC/Loot Rail scam where, she has publicly indicated, she has "reframed her thinking" to exclude the only reason to replace the I-5 Bridge, which is to reduce congestion... which, of course, replacing that bridge will not do.

I wanted to review the correspondence between Rivers and those she actually works for... which obviously doesn't include her constituents if her support for billions of dollars in tax increases is any indication... to find out who was behind all of that "reframed thinking."
Sent 1/19/2018
to: brad.hendrickson@leg.wa.gov 
Based on today’s decision in Thurston County Superior Court, I am requesting electronic copies of all of Sen. Ann River’s emails and text messages dating back to December 1, 2014. 
Please contact me with particulars if you have any questions.
This was the response:
Sent: 1/25/2018
To: Me
CC: Hendrickson, Brad; Bell, Laura; Cantore, Victoria; Rivers, Sen. Ann; Pebley, Elizabeth 
Dear Mr. Hinton, 
Pursuant to RCW 42.56.520, this email responds to your public records request directed Brad Hendrickson, Secretary of the Senate, dated January 19.  The Secretary of the Senate is the records custodian for the Senate, and my office routinely answers public records requests on the Secretary's behalf. 
You have requested, “electronic copies of all of Sen. Ann River’s emails and text messages dating back to December 1, 2014.” 
Please note that a specific definition of “public records” applies to the Legislature.  RCW 42.56.010 and RCW 40.14.100 define the scope of that term.  The portions of those laws most relevant to your request are as follows: 
  • “Public record" includes any writing containing information relating to the conduct of government or the performance of any governmental or proprietary function prepared, owned, used, or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics. For the office of the secretary of the senate and the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives, public records means legislative records as defined in RCW 40.14.100 and also means the following: All budget and financial records; personnel leave, travel, and payroll records; records of legislative sessions; reports submitted to the legislature; and any other record designated a public record by any official action of the senate or the house of representatives. (RCW 42.56.010)

  • "Legislative records" shall be defined as correspondence, amendments, reports, and minutes of meetings made by or submitted to legislative committees or subcommittees and transcripts or other records of hearings or supplementary written testimony or data thereof filed with committees or subcommittees in connection with the exercise of legislative or investigatory functions, but does not include the records of an official act of the legislature kept by the secretary of state, bills and their copies, published materials, digests, or multi-copied matter which are routinely retained and otherwise available at the state library or in a public repository, or reports or correspondence made or received by or in any way under the personal control of the individual members of the legislature. (RCW 40.14.100)
As you are aware, the issue of whether individual state legislators are fully subject to the disclosure requirements of the Public Records Act (RCW 42.56) is currently the subject of a lawsuit. While a Thurston County Superior Court has determined that lawmakers are required to provide public records pursuant to the act, this ruling is pending appeal to the Supreme Court to determine whether the types of records you have requested are subject to release. 
As such, additional time is needed to respond based on our need to determine whether the information you've requested is exempt from disclosure under RCW 42.56.520(2). Given that legislators and staff needed to make those determinations and gather any responsive records are engaged in legislative session, we will need time to respond free from the time, resource, and personal constraints associated with session. (RCW 42.56.100).  Documents potentially responsive to your request will, of course, be held until we receive clear direction from the Supreme Court. 
I anticipate that we will be able to provide any responsive records by April 1, 2018.  (which didn't happen, of course.)
Sincerely, 
Jeannie Gorrell, Senate Counsel
Washington State Senate
The Legislative response, however, was even more despicable:

SB6617 and the Art of the Legislative Lie: Sen. Jaime Pedersen, Chair of Senate Judiciary

Cliff notes:

This was a legislative attempt to shield all members from any public scrutiny as they attempted to cover their asses from their communications with the special interests who actually own them.

It was such a despicable bill that even the Seattle Times (who, if memory serves is hardly a conservative bastion) condemned it. (My post on this is here:

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Doing the people’s business is apparently a lot easier without the people      
 

...
This past week we had the sorry spectacle of state lawmakers exempting themselves from the Public Records Act. Arguably worse was the tornado of spin and falsehoods they unleashed after that. When that petered out, it was a mass retreat into the panicked politician’s favorite safety blanket: the formation of a task force. 
At the core of the entire mess was contempt for the public. (Edit: my emphasis)
It is of note that every legislator in SW Washington, Save Rep. Vicki Craft, voted for this abomination.

Which brings us to... here:

The legislature did what they frequently do when confronted with issues they don't like: they set up a committee to "study" the issue.

Well, study it they did.  But that's about all they did.

A bill was dropped this session that never made it out of committee when, once again, it was determined to be as worthless as teats on a boar hog.

The Legislature is in a state of constant terror.  There is only one reason why they've done this, this way.  And that is these actions on the part of the legislature to keep their curtain of secrecy in place is to protect themselves from the public scrutiny which is obviously both their moral... and legal... duty.

They did nothing because they're counting on the Supreme Court to bail them out.... a massive cloak of legislative immunity to hide their corruption and illegality.

Oh, they have a variety of excuses ready:  constituency privacy and all that nonsense.  But there are obvious solutions to privacy problems and they damned well know it.

But what they're covering are special interest communications, communications with lobbyists and the moneyed interests that call the shots.

Oh, no... they damned sure don't want us to see THOSE.

It's not altruism that results in their opposition to the equal application of the law... nope.  It's something entirely different.

Meanwhile, the wheels of justice continue to grind, albeit at a slower pace.  Perhaps, when the Supreme Court rules in the Legislature's favor, we'll see the quid pro quo resulting from the Legislature unnecessarily bending us over on McCleary.  There HAS to be a reason the GOP-controlled state senate raped us like that.

Could this be it?

Time will tell.

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