Governor Inslee Enacts College Savings and Open Public Meetings Laws This Week
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee has been quite busy this week. Yesterday, he signed into effect a bill, which will open a traditional 529 college savings plan in the Evergreen State as well as reopen the old prepaid program, which became frozen last year.
On Tuesday, Gov Inslee issued Senate Bill 6601 thus reopening Washington State’s current college savings program—among the very few in the whole of the United States which allow parents to pay tuition in advance—initially frozen back in August.
Standard 529 plans, of course, are presently open in 48 other states. Both the 529 and the older prepaid program, he says, help people to save money for college without having to pay federal income taxes on what would otherwise by investment earnings.
The bill—which was approved by the Legislature in early March—passed easily through both chambers.
But Governor Inslee also enacted, on Tuesday, a law requested by Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s agency which will increase transparency within the state government by enhancing penalties for knowing violations of Washington State’s Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA).
OPMA requires that all meetings of multimember, public-agency governing bodies—which includes city councils, county commissions, and school boards, as well as many other state boards—to remain both open and accessible to the public.
Accordingly, Senate Bill 6171 will bring the out-of-date OPMA penalty provisions into the modern era. Presently, the OPMA violation penalty is only $100—and it has been this fine since the original act went into effect in 1971. The new law, then, increases the penalty to $500 for a first time violation; coinciding, roughly, with inflation. The new law will also add a $1,000 “repeat violator” penalty for each subsequent OPMA violation.
Ferguson comments, “This bipartisan bill promotes the open and honest government Washingtonians demand and deserve. When the law requires an open meeting, yet officials knowingly close the door on the public, they must be held accountable with meaningful penalties.”
Furthermore, prime bill sponsor Senator Pam Roach (R-Sumner), adds, “The people have a right to know what their officials are doing and hold them accountable for those decisions. This update of the law will mean those officials who knowingly and repeatedly violate our open meetings law will now face a real penalty — one strong enough to protect the public’s right to know.”