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Court: Washington state lawmakers subject to public records act

Supreme Court of Washington State. (File)

The Washington Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Public Records Act fully applies to state lawmakers.

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The justices heard oral arguments in June on the appeal of a case that was sparked by a September 2017 lawsuit filed by a media coalition, led by The Associated Press, which was seeking sexual harassment reports, calendar entries and other documents.

The coalition argued lawmakers have been violating the law by not releasing information. Lawmakers have long said they are not subject to the law that applies to other elected officials and agencies.

The justices found for the media coalition in a 7 to 2 decision.

A Thurston County superior court judge ruled in January 2018 that while the offices of individual lawmakers are subject to the Public Records Act, but the Washington Legislature, the House and Senate were not.

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The media coalition’s lawsuit had named the individual entities of the Legislature, as well as four legislative leaders. The Legislature appealed the portion of the ruling that applies to the legislative offices, and the media coalition appealed the portion of the ruling that applies to the Legislature, House and Senate.

While the media won its argument that individual lawmakers must release records, a majority of the Supreme Court justices ruled the institutions of the Legislature, the House and the Senate are not required to.

The state’s public-records act was passed by voter initiative in 1972.

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