Gov. Inslee vetoes legislative exemption bill

Gov. Inslee vetoes legislative exemption bill”

"I believe the Legislature's overwhelming vote on the bill was a good faith attempt to increase disclosure and transparency".

In turn, a media coalition that sued over legislative records previous year agreed to seek a stay of proceedings in the trial court during an appeal from last month's court ruling that found state lawmakers are fully subject to the same broad public disclosure requirements that cover other local and state elected officials and employees at state agencies. The Legislature is in the process of appealing that ruling, and while a stay was likely to be granted in the case regardless, the media groups agreed to officially request the stay with the defendants and to not seek enforcement of the order while the case is on appeal.

The bill would also would have retroactively blocked older legislative records such as the ones being sought by the media coalition, including records of sexual harassment investigations and text messages between lawmakers.

In a Thursday letter by the media coalition attorney Michele Earl-Hubbard, she said a veto would allow the group to "work collaboratively with legislators and other stakeholders to resolve our differences transparently".

Inslee's decision came amid widespread public pressure against the legislation, which lawmakers ramrodded through both state houses.

Even though the Legislature has been trying to appeal the case to the state Supreme Court, lawmakers moved to circumvent the initial ruling from Lanese anyway.

In what may have been record time, Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, and Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, co-sponsored a bill that essentially creates a separate public records law for the Legislature.

Senate Bill 6617 would have required legislators to release some records - such as work calendars, final disciplinary reports and emails between them and registered lobbyists - but would have shielded many others. If that committee upholds the denial, the bill says it is not possible to appeal to the courts.

The bill made all of its provisions retroactive, essentially overturning any part of Lanese's order that didn't match up with the new law.

The bill passed the Senate 41-7 and the House 83-14, majorities that would be more than enough to override a veto if no votes changed.

The Legislature approved the bill only 48 hours after it became public, and without giving the proposal any public hearings or floor debate.

"The people demand disclosure", the House GOP letter said.

House Republicans blamed the hasty scheduling on Democrats, who control both chambers and the governor's office.

In the past few days, Gov. Inslee's office received thousands of phone calls and emails against the bill. All of the communication Thursday urged the governor's veto. "I mean you tell people, you know, 'You can buy an AR-15 and you don't have to go through a local law enforcement check like you did if you bought the same pistol at the same store just down the counter.' They look at you like you're insane".

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