4 Steps to Get Your Reporting in Order - HB1594 Washington’s Public Records Act Update

December 4, 2017

(Note: the following resources are meant to provide a basic orientation and starting point for HB1594 reporting and are not exhaustive. It is also not a substitute for professional legal services or auditing.)

In 2017 the State of Washington passed a pair of laws that make updates to the State’s public records act. These laws HB1594 and HB1595 make a number of changes including allowing for fees of digital records by gigabyte, preventing requests for “all records”, limiting types of automated requests, providing funding for the Attorney General to provide consulting, and requiring an annual report to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC).

This last item - JLARC’s annual reporting requirements - is likely to create the most changes to local and state level government processes. In this post we’ll review the reporting requirements and how to help you meet them as easily and painlessly as possible. Let’s get started!

Step #1 - Review Reporting Requirements

If you haven’t already reviewed the requirements you should get familiar with them. Reporting for the preceding year is due to JLARC annually on July 1st. JLARC has continued to provide guidance on metrics, so look for updates to ensure you stay in compliance and aren’t adding unnecessary reporting work for yourself. Below are the required metrics:

  • identity of the requestor if provided
  • date the request was received
  • date the request was completed
  • description of the records produced, redacted or withheld, in response to the request
  • average length of time taken to acknowledge receipt of a public records request
  • estimated agency staff time spent on a request
  • proportion of records provided within five days of the request and the proportion of requests estimated beyond five days
  • agency's initial estimate for providing records
  • actual time in providing such records
  • number of requests where the agency asked for clarification from the requestor
  • number of requests denied and abandoned
  • type of requestor
  • portion of requests fulfilled electronically or by physical records
  • number of requests where the agency was required to scan physical records electronically to fulfill disclosure
  • estimated agency costs fulfilling requests, managing and retaining records and
  • defending claims of public disclosure violations
  • number of claims filed alleging a violation of public disclosure laws and costs
  • agency costs defending claims of public disclosure violations
  • expenses recovered from requestors for fulfilling records requests
  • measurement of requestor satisfaction with agency responses, communication, and processes relating to public records requests

(See full law here)

Step #2 - Assemble a Reporting Template

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the requirements we recommend putting together a spreadsheet template to help you systematize and collect your data. We’ve created an example spreadsheet which you’re free to use as a starting point. (NextRequest customers can export their raw request data directly into the template to generate the report).

Get HB1594 Reporting Template (Excel)

Step #3 - Conduct Gap Analysis

Once you’ve reviewed the requirements and assembled your spreadsheet template it’s time to identify what you’re currently collecting and what you still need to add. The first tab  in the above spreadsheet template  “Data Review & Plan” can help you systematically review the current status of your data.  

Step #4 - Make a Plan and Execute

Okay, you’ve identified what you’re currently collecting and any gaps. Now’s the time to make a plan. The “Data Review & Plan” tab in the spreadsheet also includes columns for “Stakeholders Involved” and “Next Steps”. Again feel free to use our spreadsheet in whole or in part. You may need to coordinate with multiple departments to ensure you can create a consistent and accurate report for your organization. Now all you have to do is follow through on your plan!

To summarize:

  1. Review the reporting requirements
  2. Assemble a Reporting Template
  3. Conduct Gap Analysis
  4. Make a Plan and Execute

Try NextRequest for yourself (in less than a minute!) and see how we help governments across Washington meet their reporting requirements for HB1594:

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