Protect your right to know | In Our Opinion

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Remember those words when those in government propose laws that would affect your access to information about the work they do on your behalf.

Here are two bills before the state Legislature that you should be concerned about. Let your legislators know how you feel about these bills — and write a letter to the editor; our legislators and their staff members read those too.

HB 1315 would allow governments to do an end-around on non-daily newspapers in counties where there isn’t a daily newspaper. The bill concerns the impoundment of animals, and how local law enforcement should notify the public when an animal has been impounded. But the bill opens a door to online-only publication of legal notices.

Publication of legal notices in a newspaper of record ensures those notices are made available to the public at the proper time and in proper sequence. Publication of each notice is verified by the newspaper’s publisher. If government websites become the sole source, there would be no way to secure that verification and it would difficult for the community to monitor accuracy and compliance with applicable laws. Publishing public notices in a newspaper of record also contributes to a reservoir of archived material (online too) in a form that cannot be altered, hacked, or manipulated after the fact.

Status: Referred to the Rules Committee for consideration.

HB 1595 would give local governments the ability to run up the bill that citizens who request records would have to pay for records requests. HB 1595 would create a potential financial barrier that could be used by government officials to limit access to information, and could work against transparency in government. We’re skeptical that government agencies can be trusted to not run up the bill on document requests in an attempt to delay or hinder the release of public records, if given the chance. (The mayor of Langley tried to bill a reporter for time the city attorney spent answering questions for a story.)

Status: Scheduled for a hearing at 8 a.m. March 15 before the state Senate Committee on State Government.

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