Closed-door negotiations began last week on state-worker contracts for the 2017-19 biennium, and Sen. John Braun hopes it is the last time the talks will be kept out of public view.
“Washington does a better job than most states when it comes to open government,” said Braun, R-Centralia. “However, the exemption of state-employee collective bargaining from the Open Public Meetings Act is something that needs to be changed. The last time these contracts were negotiated it resulted in a 300-million-dollar commitment from taxpayers without their input.”
Braun was the sponsor of this year’s Senate Bill 5329, which would require collective-bargaining meetings to be open to the public. Braun noted the secret talks are getting under way during the week when most people seeking statewide public office later this year are filing as candidates. The governor’s office will be among those on the ballot.
“The timing is probably a coincidence, but it serves as a reminder that the governor’s people are negotiating behind closed doors with organizations that not only represent state workers but also have political agendas as well,” he said.
“Other states are successfully engaging the public in these decisions and I don’t see why Washington shouldn’t do the same,” said Braun. “Our current system does not allow for any deviation from the commitments made in secret between the governor and public-employee unions. The Legislature can only approve or reject the agreements. That wasn’t the case before 2004 and if the people’s representatives are unable to give input on the contracts, we should at least have transparency in the process.”