Washington’s Democracy Dominoes Falling?


By Robert A. Matney

Of great concern are recent and fast approaching upcoming events involving Washington’s “Sunshine Committee” (SC). The SC’s decisions could prove devastating for all citizen activists and the public in general.

Around 1972, Washington voters approved what became the Public Records Act (PRA). That contained only 10 exemptions it ballooned to about 300 by 2007, when simultaneously, the state legislature gave in to citizen demands and set up the “Sunshine Committee” (SC). The SC consists of citizens and 4 legislators to review exemptions and make PRA improvement recommendations to the legislature.

Since then, the Legislature mostly ignored the SC, and instead placated special interest group lobbyists to increase exemptions to a bloated, wide-variety of 632! Why? Money of course. And the way to get it is for the legislator to block public awareness of what they’re doing by restricting records access. Legislators proved that by going even further by passing a bill in 2019 attempting to exempt themselves from the PRA. To his credit, Gov. Jay Inslee vetoed that legislation, but the legislator has routinely ignored the PRA. From 2009, more than 20 SC bills have been presented, but only 13 passed. Within the last year, zero bills were filed. This week prominent SC member Katherine George resigned and after 15 years. The rest of the SC members are considering disbanding the SC expressing frustration the legislator ignores them so they can’t accomplish anything.

Without the SC, citizen activism is greatly hampered, without access to public records success is doubtful. No Records equals No Crime, and democracy fails without The Washington Coalition for Open Government (WashCOG, a watchdog group). Have no delusions, WashCOG is by far and away the single most important activist group in the state. Without WashCOG, we have nothing, they are the foundation on which everything else stands including the SC. Without the SC WashCOG has few tools and the result would be runaway legislation to exempt records access and that means, “No Records = No Crime!”.

In Washington state that’s how Democracy’s Dominoes Fall, resulting in its failure. The realization becomes frightening after understanding how all the Dominoes standing are dependent on a single highly vulnerable Domino that is now precariously rocking.

# # # # # # #

Sunshine Committee Next Meeting

What: Public Records Exemptions Accountability Committee (Sunshine Committee)
When: May 23, 2023
Time: 9:00 a.m.
In-Person: John A. Cherberg Building, Room ABC, 304 – 15th Ave SW, Olympia, WA 98504
Virtual/Online: GoToWebinar – TBD
By Phone: TBD
Materials: Agneda Forthcoming


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Richard Jones says:

    Since this covers the state, I’ve posted this to my Facebook feed- I hope this is okay but if not o

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s