Update the Public Records Act

Every day, local government officials ensure transparency in government and serve as stewards of public
resources by effectively implementing the Public Records Act (PRA).

However, advances in technology and increases in the volume and complexity of records requests are undermining the PRA. This act must be updated to reflect 21st century realities in order to fulfill its original purpose, provide government transparency, and make wise use of taxpayer dollars.

“Our interactions with state and local governments during the project showed their commitment to the principles of open, accessible and accountable government.”
– Washington State Auditors Office, Report N0. 1017396

The Public Records Act is Outdated

Significant technological advances since 1972 – the year the PRA was adopted by voters – have considerably changed the number, size, and complexity of the records that cities and counties must manage. Between 2011 and 2015, the average number of requests increased by 36 percent.

Demand on Local Governments is Growing

Despite the growth in number and complexity of requests, local governments are making a concerted effort to keep up. Governments fulfill 17 percent of requests the same day. Overall, they fulfill 47 percent of requests within five days and 71 percent in less than 21 days.

Cities and counties invest a significant amount of time and resources in managing records and fulfilling records requests. Governments spent more than $60 million last year fulfilling public records request. The dollars allocated to records management bring this figure even higher.

Litigation Has Increased

Fear of litigation drives too many decisions. Cities and counties are agreeing to large settlements out of fear of enormous litigation costs. This is not a good use of taxpayer dollars, nor does it create a more open and accountable government. We need more clarity to avoid disputes and prevent misuse, as well as better options for resolving disputes when they arise.

1972

The year that the
Public Record’s Act
was adopted by
Washington voters

36%

The increase in the
average number of
requests from
2011-2015

$60M

The amount of
money governments
spent in 2015
fulfilling requests

mm
Josh Weiss started working in Olympia in 1998 and in addition to spending the last 8 years at WSAC, has served as nonpartisan counsel to the House of Representatives, Legislative Director for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Environmental Policy Director for the Washington Forest Protection Association representing private forest landowners. Josh is a graduate of Central Washington University and the Vermont Law School, and is a fourth generation Washingtonian.