A legal battle over whether state lawmakers are exempt from public records requests will go before the state Supreme Court Tuesday. Several media outlets, including public radio, sued the state after many requests for records were denied in 2017.
In January 2018, a Thurston County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the media on the question of whether lawmaker records, such as emails and calendars, are subject to the public records request.
"But the judge also found that the House and Senate administrative offices generally do not have to release their records," Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins said.
Lawmakers immediately appealed the ruling, and media outlets are appealing the second part of the ruling dealing with administrative offices. Jenkins said it could be several months before the justices make a decision on the case.
"The thinking here seems to be that the ruling might be out by the end of this year. That would be before the start of the January session, which in some ways would make things much clearer in terms of the rules going forward. But with the Supreme Court you really never can be sure. Let's just be clear that it won't be immediate," Jenkins said.
In March 2018, Gov. Jay Inslee ultimately vetoed a bill that exempted lawmakers from public records requests after several legislators requested that action. Several media outlets also published editorials against the exemption bill on the front pages of newspapers.
Inslee has been out on the road again campaigning for the presidency. He was in Iowa over the weekend and will travel Wednesday to New Hampshire. The governor has been making news lately with a request for a debate focused solely on climate change.
That request was denied by the Democratic National Committee, which said Inslee would be the only candidate to benefit from the debate. But Jenkins says there is still a continued push for that debate to happen.
"Certainly Inslee isn't giving up on this idea, nor are some party insiders who are saying they're going to petition the DNC to allow this debate to go forward. There's also been the thought of maybe a third party sponsoring a climate change debate and the candidates participating in that," Jenkins said. "Inslee, once again, using strong sound bites to try to gain some media attention."
Jenkins said that tactic been working since the governor had an interview with "Rolling Stone" earlier this year. But even with that kind of national media attention, Inslee is showing up at 1 percent in Iowa polls.