Statements from legislative caucus leaders on Senate Bill 6617 (Legislative Public Records Act)

Statements from legislative caucus leaders on Senate Bill 6617 (Legislative Public Records Act)

Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island
“We have listened to the concerns of the media and open government advocates and believe this bipartisan, middle ground approach strikes a good balance between privacy, transparency and the legislature’s ability to do its job.

“If aspects of this plan do not work in practice, however, I am open to looking at additional ways we can ensure the legislature operates in a way that is more transparent.”

Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville
“The people of this state have a right to know what their government is doing on their behalf, and I believe strongly in open government and transparency. It is just as important that their Legislature be able to effectively work on their behalf. This bill is a balanced solution that allows the public to know what is going on inside their government in a way that is both workable and protects the privacy of our constituents.”

House Majority Leader Rep. Pat Sullivan, D-Covington
“The Legislature takes seriously its commitment to government transparency. Lawmakers and staff have been working diligently on coming up with a workable solution. The proposal strikes a good balance between increasing legislative transparency while also protecting constituent privacy and practices that allow the Legislature to do its work for the people of Washington.” 

House Republican Caucus Chair Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley
“We are committed to transparency and open government. The Legislative Public Records Act expands the amount of records available to the public, while preserving the privacy of constituents and whistleblowers. It strikes the appropriate balance. I look forward to the bill’s passage and implementation.”  

SDC: Aaron Wasser – 360-786-7333
SRC: Booker Stallworth – 360-786-7536
HDC: Andy McVicar – 360-786-7215
HRC: John Handy – 360-786-5758

Summary of Legislative Public Records Proposal

PRA Clarified to Exclude Legislature. The Legislature’s disclosure duties are established in a new chapter, and it is clarified that the Public Records Act (PRA) does not apply to the state legislative branch, and its houses, members, employees, and agencies. Conforming amendments are made to the PRA to reflect these changes. 

Records Subject to Disclosure. “Legislative public records” subject to disclosure are defined. The definition includes all items currently disclosed under the PRA, as well as additional items (in italics):

  • Correspondence, amendments, minutes, etc., from committee meetings.
  • Transcripts, other records of hearings, written testimony, etc., filed with committees.
  • Internal accounting and financial records.
  • Personnel leave, travel, and payroll records.
  • Bills and bill reports.
  • Reports submitted to the Legislature.
  • Final dispositions of disciplinary proceedings by Executive Rules or F&O.
  • Specified information from legislators’ calendars of meetings or events related to official legislative duties, created after July 1, 2018.
  • Legislators’ correspondence on legislative business to and from persons outside the Legislature who are not constituents, created after July 1, 2018.
  • Any other record officially designated a legislative public record. 

Disclosure Exceptions. Exceptions to the disclosure obligation are also defined.

  • Records the disclosure of which would violate an individual’s right to privacy (disclosure would be highly offensive and is not of legitimate public concern), such as personal information in personnel files.
  • Records of policy development; however, this exception does not apply to records of correspondence with lobbyists, lobbyist employers, etc.
  • Credit card numbers, bank account numbers, etc.
  • Records that are relevant to a controversy to which an entity of state government is a party but that would not be available in litigation.
  • Records subject to the Speech or Debate Clause in Article II, section 17, including but not limited to the deliberative process. 

Responding to Requests. The Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Clerk of the House are the public records officers for those bodies respectively, and are jointly the public records officers for joint committees and legislative agencies. Requirements for copying, access, responses, and fees are established, most of which are generally based on existing PRA language. However, in language mirroring the judiciary’s disclosure rule, the Chief Clerk or the Secretary may deny a records request if the request was made to harass or intimidate, or if fulfilling the request would present a safety risk. 

Review. A person whose request for legislative public records was denied may seek review by the Facilities & Operations Committee or the Executive Rules Committee, respectively, or jointly if the request involved a legislative agency or joint committee. The committees’ decisions are final. 

Application. The part of the bill removing the legislature from the scope of the PRA is retroactive and applies to any pending PRA requests or litigation. The Legislative Public Records Act takes effect immediately.


Washington State House Republican Communications