This has become a source of frustration for Sunshine Committee members, as was made clear at last week’s quarterly meeting. Someone made a motion to dissolve the committee, which was quickly seconded.
Spokane Rep. Jenny Graham, a recent committee member, said the Legislature has been wrestling with tough issues in recent years, like COVID-19, police pursuit and drug possession laws. With those out of the way, things could improve, she suggested.
But this isn’t just a problem from the past few years, committee chair Linda Krese said. “This has been true all along.”
KXLY News Director Melissa Luck, the newest committee member, said if members recommend the committee be dissolved, they should make it clear they aren’t saying the work is unimportant.
“I think the committee is saying the government doesn’t think this is important,” Luck said.
Jennifer Steele, an assistant attorney general and committee member, said there’s a problem with putting in the work to make recommendations and having the Legislature not do anything. Perhaps the Legislature could give some direction what exemptions they want reviewed or the committee could ask them to at least hold hearings on its recommendations.
Maybe the committee should first ask the Legislature for a budget that would provide for a staff that could do research, Graham said: “If you have a committee like this, you want it to function well.”
There may be a question about how well the Legislature wants the committee to function. But there seems little doubt that it can’t dissolve itself.
“We can’t go away on our own,” Springer said. “The Legislature has to make that happen.”
Eventually, the committee dropped, for the time being, any motion to dissolve. But that may not matter in the long run.
Sen. Jeff Wilson, a committee member, said he has told staff to draft a bill repealing the statute that created the committee, which would automatically wipe it out. That bill can’t be introduced until January, so even if it passes the Sunshine Committee will exist at least on paper until mid-2024, when bills from that session take effect.
By then, however, it may have no leadership, no agenda and possibly even no chance of a quorum as members quit out of frustration and new appointees become hard to find.
If lawmakers are truly interested in this type of Sunshine, they could consider an alternative. Instead of eliminating the committee, they could provide it with a staff for research and assistance, a yearly resolution asking for review of specific exemptions, and a guarantee that bills based on recommendations will be considered in a House or Senate committee.