Dear friends and neighbors,

This week, you may have heard a lot of discussion about public records and Senate Bill 6617.

The bill isn’t perfect and I regret that more time wasn’t set aside for public input. But I voted for it to protect the right of my constituents to share opinions with me or reach out for help without having to worry that this information will be released indiscriminately or even used against them.

Since 1972, it has widely been understood that Washington’s public disclosure laws do not apply to legislators. But media organizations filed suit using a novel theory and a judge made a ruling last month that is unworkable and potentially harmful.

The ruling would open information you share with me to corporations, political parties and anyone else who wants it. Constituents regularly write to me about issues dealing with domestic violence, mental health, issues with their children and personal medical issues. I am adamantly opposed to those messages being open to public records requests.

No constituent should fear that a message they send to me may end up in some blog or on the front page of some newspaper. How is it good for democracy if constituents are fearful of writing to their representatives in government?

In order to balance these concerns with the need for real transparency, we passed Senate Bill 6617. It may not go as far as some would like, but I feel that it strikes a responsible compromise.

Constituents who have contacted me on this issue have said their main concern is distrust of interactions between lobbyists and legislators, and “backroom deals.” But the public discussion has lost sight of the fact that Senate Bill 6617 will open all communication between legislators and lobbyists to public disclosure.

It’s important to note that this is the first time in the history of Washington’s Legislature that this much information will be readily accessible to the public.

Going forward, the bill ensures that legislators’ contacts with lobbyists will be public, while contacts with constituents will stay private. I believe that it will go a long way towards easing concerns about inappropriate interactions or efforts by legislators or lobbyists in Olympia.

To illustrate my commitment to transparency, I encourage you to call my office (360 786 7608) anytime you have questions about what is happening in Olympia. That includes who I meet with and why I voted a certain way. As my constituent, you will always have a right to open and honest answers from me.

All my best,