Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Washington State Legislature SSB 6367: Encouraging Online Responses To Public Information Requests

by Matt Rosenberg March 31st, 2010

On March 15, 2010, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law SSB 6367, encouraging online responses to public information requests of state government. The text of the bill states that if commonly requested records were made available on the Internet there could be significantly reduced costs to the public and the state. The bill encourages agencies to post commonly requested records to their Web sites as a matter of best practices, whether or not there are any pending requests. The bill also stipulates that – with specific exceptions – within five business days of getting a public records request, a state agency or the secretary of the state senate or the clerk of the state house must deliver the information in a non-online form or (preferably) by providing a Web address to the appropriate link on the agency or legislative branch’s Web site. If a requester lacks Web access they will be able to get the information in another form.

KEY LINKS: SSB 6367 as signed into law; and legislative history.

KEY EXCERPT: “The Internet provides for instant access to public records at a significantly reduced cost to the agency and the public. Agencies are encouraged to make commonly requested records available on agency web sites. When an agency has made records available on its web site, members of the public with computer access should be encouraged to preserve taxpayer resources by accessing those records online.”

EXTENDED EXCERPT FOLLOWS.

“RCW 42.56.520 and 1995 c 397 s 15 are each amended to read as follows: Responses to requests for public records shall be made promptly by agencies, the office of the secretary of the senate, and the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives. Within five business days of receiving a public record request, an agency, the office of the secretary of the senate, or the office of the chief clerk of the house of representatives must respond by either (1) providing the record; (2) providing an internet address and link on the agency’s web site to the specific records requested, except that if the requester notifies the agency that he or she cannot access the records through the internet, then the agency must provide copies of the record or allow the requester to view copies using an agency computer…

…Additional time required to respond to a request may be based upon the need to clarify the intent of the request, to locate and assemble the information requested, to notify third persons or agencies affected by the request, or to determine whether any of the information requested is exempt and that a denial should be made as to all or part of the request.”

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