Friday, February 23, 2024

Sen. Hawkins comments on his vote in favor of SB 6617


“The hope with the bill was for it to resolve the current confusion about the accessibility of legislative documents. It would be helpful to have clarity, both for the legislative offices and the public. There was clarity before, but then just confusion because of the court case.
I’ve learned that nothing is as easy to resolve here in Olympia as some people may think. Issues are complicated and don’t lend themselves well to short sound bites, although that is what seems to drive the political world these days.
The bill approved and then vetoed provided needed structure as to who is responsible for responding to requests because our 147 different legislative offices are each in a position to respond adequately. The Chief Clerk and the Secretary of Senate would have become the public records officers, which is appropriate.
It would certainly have been a change because many documents, including calendars and non-constituent interactions, would become subject to disclosure. That’s fine with me. The bill also defined bills, reports, committee materials, accounting records, and travel as other examples of “legislative public records.” This is all helpful.
My main concern is protecting constituent correspondence. Legislative offices get thousands of communications each year from the constituents we serve. Many constituents reach out to us for help and often share personal details including issues about their mental health, financial difficulties, past abuse, gun ownership, sexual orientation, and other personal circumstances.
My goal is for constituent communications to be protected and that any change doesn’t jeopardize or diminish their ability to communicate with us on the issues they care about or need help with. Our offices exist to serve the people who elect us, and I believe we need some discretion to do that work properly.


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