Gov. Jay Inslee announced new measures today to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19. They address impacts on public meetings and public records access; notary services; Liquor and Cannabis Board late payment waivers; and updates to Utilities and Transportation Commission Ratepayer Assistance.
“As life changes daily during this COVID-19 outbreak, we continue to look at ways to adjust to this new reality,” Inslee said. “These proclamations will help ensure that people still get the information, access and tools they need. These are unprecedented times and we continue to make necessary adjustments to help Washingtonians.”
Open Public Meetings and Public Records
The OPMA requires public meetings have facilities made available for people to attend. Waving this requirement works to prevent the gathering of people to further curb the spread of the virus. However, governing bodies may only address “necessary and routine matters” as defined in RCW 42.30.020, or matters necessary to address the COVID-19 outbreak, for the 30 days the proclamation is active.
The PRA mandates public access to agency facilities to review and copy public records. Many state agencies are closed due to the governor’s emergency proclamation mandating non-essential businesses close or begin teleworking, closing agency facilities that would make it difficult to respond to requests in the five-day deadline. Under this order, the requirement for agencies to respond to or acknowledge all records requested in the PRA mandated timeframe is waived. However, agencies are still expected to continue to respond promptly and to the greatest and fullest extent possible.
Extended Notary Services
New electronic notary services are authorized by waiving the delayed effective date in SB 5641, passed by the Legislature in 2019. This bill imposed a delayed effective date of October 2020, which is being suspended in this proclamation so this service may be rendered immediately.
Liquor and Cannabis Board Late Payment Waivers
This proclamation waives the penalties for failure to timely remit tax payments to the LCB until April 22. The waiver is made retroactive to the date of the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency on Feb. 29.
Utilities and Transportation Commission Ratepayer Assistance
This proclamation is a technical update to Proclamation 20-23 related to UTC ratepayer assistance issued on March 18. The phrase “in providing” was replaced with “or otherwise provide” on page two at the request of the UTC. The original expiration date of April 17 is retained.