Within minutes of each of other, Washington House and Senate lawmakers approved a bill Friday that makes some legislative records public starting in July — but shields records that already exist.
The votes came about 48 hours after lawmakers announced a sweeping proposal to remove the Legislature from the state Public Records Act and set new guidelines for the disclosure of some laws.
Senate Bill 6617 passed the Senate, without debate, 41-7. Minutes later, House lawmakers took it up and approved it 83-14.
The Legislature has long claimed that it is exempt from Washington’s voter-approved Public Records Act.
Last year, several news organizations, including The Associated Press and The Seattle Times, had challenged that exemption.
A court ruling in January declared legislative leaders had violated the open-records act.
Lawmakers proposed SB 6617 on Wednesday and gave it a hearing Thursday.
“This bill actually provides more transparency for the state Legislature,” said Senate Majority Leader Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island and co-sponsor of the bill, as she introduced it Friday onto the Senate floor.
The other co-sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, rose to the floor, saying, “The recent court order is completely unworkable.”
All but a handful of House and Senate lawmakers declined requests by The Seattle Times to comment on the bill Thursday and Friday.
One of the few lawmakers who did comment, Rep. Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, said the bill “wholly disrupts” state open-government laws.
“Succinctly put, the bill is a body slam to open government and the accountability that our citizens expect and deserve,” Kilduff, who voted against the bill, wrote in an email.
Legislators have long claimed an exemption to Washington’s voter-approved Public Records Act. Under that law, local and state government offices routinely release documents such as calendars, emails and investigation reports.
A judge in January ruled that legislative leaders violated the state Public Records Act for failing to disclose records.
The Legislature has appealed, and the matter may wind up before the state Supreme Court.