Washington Gov. Vetoes Public Record-Exemptions for Lawmakers

(CN) – Just hours before the deadline Thursday night, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee decided to veto a controversial bill that would have allowed state lawmakers to be exempt from the state’s open records law.

Senate Bill 6617, passed last week without public comment, would have protected lawmakers in the state House and Senate from disclosing details about meetings with constituents and sometimes lobbyists, as well as emails, calendars and texts.

Inslee’s office said more than 5,500 phone calls and 11,500 emails were sent to the governor about the bill, with most of them asking him to veto it.

The bill had passed the Senate 41-7 and in the House 83-14.

Earlier this week, the state’s Sunshine Commission asked Inslee to veto the bill due to concerns about the lack of public commentary through the legislative process.

Despite being passed by a majority of Democrats and Republicans, state lawmakers from both parties sent letters to the governor Thursday asking him to veto the bill.

Gov. Inslee declined to make a public appearance Thursday night, opting instead to release a press statement on the governor’s website and Twitter.

“I want to thank the legislators who have reconsidered this bill and asked me for this veto tonight,” Inslee wrote. “Since this bill passed, my office and lawmakers have heard an unprecedented level of response from the public.”

Inslee cited the public and legislators’ response as the reason why he vetoed the bill.

“Those messages were heard loudly and clearly,” Inslee wrote. “I now hope lawmakers, the media, and other stakeholders will work together to resolve differences through a process the public can have faith in.”

The bill was drafted in response to media outlets’ requests for information regarding incidents of sexual harassment in the Legislature. It would have retroactively applied to lawmakers if it was made into law.

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