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Coalition calls on lawmakers to adopt legislative transparency reforms

A coalition of good government, media and business groups have signed a letter encouraging state lawmakers to adopt the Washington Policy Center’s proposed legislative transparency reforms.

The letter was delivered to lawmakers Jan. 14 on the first day of the 2013 Legislative Session.

From the coalition letter:

“Dear Lawmakers,

As you begin your work on the people’s behalf our hope is that you will ensure that the legislative process remains open and transparent so the public can be meaningfully involved. Among the legislative transparency reforms that you should consider is a proposal by the Washington Policy Center that would:

  • Provide mandatory public notice and waiting periods before legislative action;
  • Ban title-only bills; and
  • Subject the legislature to the same transparency requirements that are placed on local governments.

We’ve seen all too often the problems that occur when the public is cut out of the legislative debate. Please give your support to these transparency protections so the people have a real opportunity to participate in the 2013 Session.”

The letter is signed by Association of Washington Business, Greater Pasco Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce, Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities, Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce, Lake Chelan Chamber of Commerce, Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Spokane Home Builders Association, Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce, Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce, Washington Coalition for Open Government, Washington Newspaper Publishers Association, Washington Policy Center, Washington State Americans for Prosperity, Washington State Farm Bureau, and Washington State Grange.

The Washington Policy Center’s (www.washingtonpolicy.org) legislative transparency reforms also have been endorsed by retiring State Auditor Brian Sonntag and Attorney General Rob McKenna.

As noted by Sonntag in this Tacoma News Tribune article:

“News Tribune: When it comes to open government, do you think the Legislature will ever agree to put itself under some of the same restrictions that it puts local governments under? Right now they can go into caucus and they don’t have to do a lot of their business in front of the public, they have these kind of, like you mentioned, title-only bills … that they can change at the last minute.

Sonntag: Your question is do I think they’ll change. I guess if you anticipate future behavior based on past behavior, no. But they absolutely should. The increasing distrust by citizens about their government or their government officials is not helped when they do these kinds of things. A title-only bill — how do you vote on a title-only bill? Some of that just makes no sense at all. When I watch how local governments operate, and you look at a city council, they can be partisan or nonpartisan, but they work on reaching consensus, not unanimity maybe, nor should they, but consensus. The Legislature seems to take intentional steps towards divisiveness. And I think they could eliminate some of that by opening their processes.”

Senators from both parties spoke favorably about our transparency recommendations last year during the drama over the 9th order debate in the Senate on the budget.

It is also worth noting that the first goal mentioned in the House of Representatives official mission statement is to:

“Increase public participation, understanding, and transparency of the legislative process …”

Several newspapers have also editorialized in support.

 
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