Morning Roundup

Public Records, Seattle's Statute of Limitations on Harassment, Gun Regulations

Your local politics morning digest.

By Hayat Norimine February 28, 2018

Governor jay inslee before inaugural address keddcf

Governor Jay Inslee before his inaugural address in January 2013.

MORE NEWS ON THAT PUBLIC RECORDS BILL: Senate Bill 6617 dominated the news coverage in the past two days after state lawmakers last week passed the legislation, which would exempt them from the Public Records Act, in less than 48 hours.

With just one day left for Governor Jay Inslee to decide whether to veto the Public Records Act, newspapers are pulling all their weight with their news coverage so far this week, leading up to the wave of front-page editorials Tuesday morning. It attracted national attention.

From The Seattle Times, a "slap in the face"; from The News Tribune, a "snow job"; The Columbian, "shameful" and "appalling in both intent and process." 

Some other good reads: 

-"AP FACT CHECK: Lawmakers in Olympia off mark on public records facts" 

-What are state lawmakers now saying to explain their votes, and does it hold credence? The News Tribune describes the statements reporters have heard from our legislators and whether there's any truth behind it. The short answer... not really. 

-Crosscut published an op-ed written by former Seattle city council member Jean Godden, who urges Inslee to veto the widely approved "secrecy bill."

Why she matters—in her 2007 re-election bid, her challenger's campaign filed a public records request on her office and found she had misused public resources. She paid $150 the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission fined her out of pocket. The headline begins: "I paid a price on public records law." (But she still won the re-election handily. She conceded to Rob Johnson eight years later.)

-King County Council members also sent a letter to Inslee calling on him to oppose the bill. 

GUN VIOLENCE: While hundreds of Washington state's residents were outraged over state lawmakers' attempts to bar certain records from the public eye, not everyone thought it warranted the overwhelming attention from newspapers across the state. Some Twitter critics asked why editorial boards who rarely publish front-page editorials didn't, say, use that influence to garner more support for gun control.

In Congress, the national focus is still on next steps after a gunman killed 17 high school students and staffers in Parkland, Florida.  Democrats and advocates for more gun regulation continue to urge federal lawmakers to take action. But President Donald Trump indicates he wants the country to go another direction—more guns in schools, proposing more teachers bare arms and/or get paid more if they do.

-Inslee got a good national spotlight on Monday after he confronted Trump at a National Governors Association televised event, criticizing the idea that teachers should carry more firearms. He told Trump the country needed "less tweeting and more listening."

-On the state level, a bill to ban bump stock trigger devices passed the Legislature on Tuesday.

-U.S. senator Patty Murray sent a letter to secretary Alex Azar at the Department of Health and Human Services asking him about his supposed plan for more gun violence research. 

MORE #METOO: Lost in the sea of news about the public records bill, let's not forget recent stories on political figures who have faced sexual harassment allegations: Most recently, representative David Sawyer, a Tacoma Democrat, and more coverage on King County Democrats chair Bailey Stober, who faces an uncertain future at the organization as more urge him to resign.

SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL: Turns out, simply extending the city's relatively short deadline to file a harassment complaint with the city—only 180 days—is more complicated than it sounds.

Council member Lisa Herbold's civil rights committee on Tuesday held its first meeting on her proposed bill that would extend harassment complaints to one year and six months. 

The legislation would also specifically define sexual harassment in the Seattle municipal code, which Herbold said would be important to limit confusion and help workers figure out whether their case would fall in that category.

But central staffer Asha Venkataraman said that definition could open another set of concerns: first, that it's not comprehensive enough to include all the case law, so someone might not think they have a case with the city when they do; and second, that it could send the wrong message, that the city's prioritizing sexual harassment above other serious discrimination complaints like those involving race. 

Still, Alicia Glenwell from the Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence made a strong case for extending the length of time allowed to report on sexual harassment allegations for as long as it can be due to: the workplace culture, the fear of retaliation, shame and guilt.

"These are just simply not experiences that can be processed quickly, nor can a decision about filing a charge be made lightly," she said. And on the workplace culture: "A lot of this gets excused and ignored...If you don’t laugh it off, it’s you who don’t have a sense of humor or you who’s just being a stick in the mud."

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