Oke backing bill that threatens public disclosure

A pair of bills currently working their way through the Washington state Legislature would make it more difficult for the public to keep tabs on the workings of state and local government.

The Senate version, SB-5736, of which 26th District Sen. Bob Oke (R-Port Orchard) is a co-sponsor, would amend the state’s existing Public Disclosure Act in a number of positive ways designed to make the measure easier to understand and apply. However, the bill also includes a provision that would extend attorney-client privilege to lawyers advising state and local lawmakers, making records of these transactions inaccessible.

Communications between a private citizen and his or her attorney have always been confidential — and rightly so. But governments and their taxpayer-supported lawyers have heretofore not had the same protection unless they were discussing a current or pending lawsuit. SB-5736, which was referred to the Senate Rules Committee on March 2, and its companion bill in the House of Representatives, HB-1756, would change all that.

Why? What’s being done with our tax dollars that lawmakers would rather we not know about?

New State Attorney General Rob McKenna, who initially supported both bills, has promised to revisit them in light of recent criticism by media and public information advocates.

That’s an excellent idea. The legislative process is difficult enough for the layman to follow without enshrining secrecy as law.

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