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A senator’s weak argument on public records

Republican Rep. Matt Shea speaks on the House floor in favor of a measure that would exempt lawmakers from the state's Public Records Act, Feb. 23 in Olympia. The House passed the measure on a 83-14 vote. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)

While defending Washington lawmakers in their decision to approve a bill that exempts them from the Public Records Act, Senator Phil Fortunato said he doesn’t want people to have access to his political strategies.

Lawmakers off mark on public records facts

Furthermore, Fortunato (R-Auburn) doesn’t want people to see personal information that may be exposed, such as doctor appointments.

Why should politicians be exempt if departments across the state aren’t?

“Here’s one of the things that concerns me, aside from the fact that personal information is being divulged and stuff like that … I’m in a negotiation with someone on this gun issue. I’m sending emails back and forth to my PIO or to some other members and we’re trying to come up with a strategy on how to deal with this. And you do a public records request right in the middle of a negotiation, how does that work?”

KTTH’s Jason Rantz says his constituents are his boss. He should have to divulge such information if it’s of public concern.

“So you think I ought to divulge to the public my political strategy on dealing with a particular issue with dealing with the other side of the aisle, is that what you’re telling me? Why would I do that?”

Rantz points out he often does records requests because he wants to make sure public agencies are doing what they promise, and not contradicting to what they say.

“Well, I don’t know what you want me to tell you … We have to have a plan in place on what’s going to be divulged when it’s going to be divulged; all that stuff.

Fact Check: Lawmakers off mark on public records facts

“If you call me up and say, ‘I want to see your calendar.’ Do you have the right to know that my wife has a doctor’s appointment and I have to be there, or that I’m going to the eye doctor?”

The bipartisan bill that would limit the disclosure requirements for lawmakers in Olympia is awaiting action by Governor Jay Inslee. More than a dozen newspapers across the state ran front-page editorials urging Inslee to veto the measure that was passed by the Legislature on a “veto-proof” two-thirds margin Friday.

If Inslee does veto the measure, Fortunato says he would vote to override it.

Listen to the entire conversation here.

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