Opinion editorial by Brad Hawkins: Government Transparency Benefits Us All
Transparency is an often-used buzzword in government, but what does transparency look like? What are the actions required to meet the standard of transparency? How can we, as government officials, improve public confidence that we are serving you, and not ourselves? As your legislator, I'm advocating for a renewed look at the actions our government can take to be transparent and accountable.
I'm proud that Washington state has a positive record regarding open government. In 2010, the Washington Legislature's website (www.leg.wa.gov) won the National Conference of State Legislature's Online Democracy Award for its depth of information, detail, and accessibility. Not many legislatures offer immediate vote records online for every bill voted on. Television Washington (TVW), our version of C-SPAN, provides television and online coverage of every public hearing and vote taken in Olympia. Also, the Washington Open Public Meetings Act is one of the strongest open government laws in the nation.
Our state's efforts to be more transparent and accountable have benefitted our citizens, and I want to continue this effort this year and in the future. That's why I am working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle here in Olympia to sponsor two bills this session that will take further steps to give you more confidence in your government.
The first proposal would expand upon a bill I sponsored and passed last session. That bill, signed by the governor in 2013, created a user-friendly online map showing capital and transportation spending by legislative district and county. This map was made available to the public just a few weeks ago at http://fiscal.wa.gov/WebMaps.aspx. My legislation for this year, House Bill 2104, would add links to any state contract associated with those projects. As taxpayers, you deserve to know how your government is spending money on your behalf, and this map provides a user-friendly platform to display this data.
My second bill, House Bill 2105, would require public agencies to post their meeting agendas online at least 24 hours before a public meeting takes place. The Open Public Meetings Act was first enacted in 1971. Obviously, public agencies did not utilize websites back then to provide information to the public. As a result, the act only requires public agencies to issue a notice of their meetings, which includes the time, date and location. Surprisingly, it does not actually require posting the meeting agendas.
Passing House Bill 2105 would encourage more citizen participation in their local governments because people would be able to identify meetings that are important for them to attend and voice their opinion. The legislation does provide exemptions for smaller entities that do not yet have websites or who employ 10 or fewer employees. The bill has been advancing in this year's Legislature, and I am hopeful we can move the bill all the way to the governor's desk.
As your legislator, it is my goal to be as transparent with you as possible. That's why I regularly send out e-mail updates, record videos in Olympia about the work I am doing, and respond quickly to calls and e-mails. Please contact my office anytime with your questions, comments or concerns. I believe our state can accomplish anything, so long as we do it together. It's truly an honor to represent you.
Rep. Brad Hawkins serves the 12th Legislative District, which includes all of Chelan and Douglas counties as well as parts of Okanogan and Grant counties. Rep. Hawkins can be contacted through his website at www.representativebradhawkins.com (where you can sign up for his e-mail updates and view video updates), by phone at (360) 786-7832 (during the session) or by e-mail at email@example.com. The 2014 legislative session is scheduled to adjourn March 13.
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