On Friday, the Washington state legislature approved an “emergency” secrecy law exempting itself from Washington’s Public Records Act.
David Boardman, Chairman of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of Press, made the following statement:
“The Washington state legislature should not be allowed to get away with its sneak attack on transparency and accountability. By passing a bill that purported to improve public accountability but that actually constrains it, and by doing so under the guise of an ’emergency,’ lawmakers have done a shameful disservice to the citizens of their state.
“There are real emergencies requiring legislatures to act, but this isn’t one of them. The public has a clear interest in knowing about possible misconduct and how lawmakers are spending taxpayer dollars. No elected official should take away the public’s right to information by claiming an ’emergency.’
“This is a red flag to the public around the country: State legislators can slam the door on open government with no warning.
“Rather than fight accountability with secrecy, the Washington state legislature should start over and do this the right way. The state to should look to others to see how this can be done. It should collect input from the press and the public, obtain feedback from interested parties both inside and outside government, and come up with a more common-sense approach.
“There are already protections in place for communications that should remain confidential, but the public’s business should be conducted in the open. Transparency is a tool for accountability, effectiveness, and trust.”