2018 Legislative Day for WNPA

  • Written by David B. Clark
On Thursday, Feb. 8, Allied Daily Newspapers of Washington and Washington Newspaper Publishers Association held 2018 Legislative Day at the Capitol Campus, Olympia. The state’s capitol basked in a glimmer of winter sunshine as reporters, journalists, editors, and publishers filled Senate Hearing Room 4 at the Cherberg Building. The day was important to independent journalism and reporting because legislators must understand that the people behind the newspapers are government watchdogs. Newspapers are the best way for communities and local businesses to coexist; their synergy crucial for their successes.
legislative photo(Photo by David B. Clark)This daylong event began at 10 a.m. with a report from Allied Daily Newspaper’s Rowland Thompson. Thompson, donning a regal bow tie, thanked the press for attending. Thompson was deliberate in his report when he stressed a number of bills that can cause major issues for reporters: namely SB 6079 which would exempt public employee dates of birth from public disclosure requirements and SB 6408 which concerns regulating body worn cameras by police and some security personnel. Rowland explained how everything that Democrats have introduced after taking the majority in both the Senate and the House is being pushed through the system. “The country being convulsed due to the Trump presidency is going to go on for a long time,” said Thompson.
As of Feb. 14, SB 6408 made its way through the Senate and had a public hearing in the House Committee on Judiciary on Feb. 15. While there are concerns for this bill, the regulations that are being put forth are those concerning the confirmed identification of people that may be witnesses or victims to crimes: minors or individuals engaged in lewd acts are two of the potential examples on the long list. Thompson went on to explain that this is largely an issue of paying for redaction, or the editing or blurring out, of the innocent parties’ identities.
Though some of this does share similarities with police dash cams, agencies are more hesitant to provide body cams to the press. There are issues on both sides of the argument. Police Chiefs now are quick to let loose footage if it is of officers acting against what was accused while the ACLU wanted destruction of all the recordings unless it depicted police misconducted. While movers will do what they can to progress their own agendas, it seems that the first tech company to develop the cheapest, most reliable redaction software is going to be the winner once these new regulations and requirements are enacted.
legs photo2(Photo by David B. Clark)“You need age (date of birth) to tell stories,” began Michele Earl-Hubbard, WNPA’s attorney. She continued, “D.O.B. is not a secret.” The debate is that date of birth can be used by hackers, crooks, and other nefarious individuals yet Earl-Hubbard argues that D.O.B. is not the crucial piece of information any of the aforementioned would need to cause any serious harm. “D.O.B. is not the key to identity theft,” stated Earl-Hubbard. It is essential for D.O.B. to be public information so there is a track record of individuals and what they have done.
Furthermore, the press and media are certainly not the only individuals with a vested interest in public disclosure of someone’s date of birth. Earl-Hubbard went on to use the example of a school district hiring a bus driver. The effectiveness of a bus driver’s screening process would be hindered significantly if their date of birth was not public information. This could potentially put children’s lives in the hands of someone with a shoddy driving record. While this example is certainly an outlier, it does exemplify the repercussions of this bill. As of Feb. 14, SB 6079 has moved through the Senate and has been introduced to the House.
The morning unrolled through the afternoon with speakers from legislative leadership, State elected officials, and State government officials.  
A reception hosted by Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst at The Temple of Justice followed the full day of informative speakers and presenters. This reception gave those who work for newspapers all over the state of Washington the opportunity to meet with Supreme Court justices.
The night concluded with an elegant dinner at the Governor’s Mansion with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and his wife, Trudi Inslee. Governor Inslee, a gracious and affable host, expressed his utmost thanks to all of his guests for attending the day before expressing his positive outlook on what the rest of the year has to offer the people of Washington.

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