Bill to exempt UACs from public disclosure laws dies in Senate

A measure that would have exempted community councils such as the one on Vashon from meeting the demands of the far-reaching Public Disclosure Act failed to make it to the Senate floor last week.

Senate Bill 5677, sponsored by state Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-Maury Island), passed out of one committee but then died in another, never making it to the Senate floor.

Nelson said she was disappointed by the bill’s fate. It died, she said, because the chamber’s committees have so many other pressing matters to tend to and because of the strong support open government laws enjoy in the state.

“I really felt that with some of these other issues we’re facing, we just couldn’t focus on it,” she said.

The bill would have exempted King County’s six unincorported area councils, or UACs, from the public disclosure laws by stating that the regional boards are not public agencies. It would have also ensured that residents who serve on such boards cannot be sued under the state act.

Those who opposed the measure said they were pleased to see it died. Tim Johnson, president of Vashon’s community council board, testified in Olympia in opposition to it. He said he agreed with the part of the bill that exempted board members from liability, but he did not want to see UACs get out from under the state’s Public Disclosure Act.

“I’m hopeful that the Senate just felt it was overreaching,” he said.

Nelson, meanwhile, said she’ll continue to seek legislation that will solve what she considers a problem — the abuse of the state’s much-hailed open government laws.

Some communities have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to comply with what amounts to frivolous requests, she said.

“We’ve got to find a solution,” she said.

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