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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

January 23, 2015 at 12:16 PM

Proposal would improve disclosure of legislators’ finances

At the request of the state Public Disclosure Commission (PDC), a bipartisan group of lawmakers has proposed a bill aimed at improving disclosure of personal finances of state legislators and other state officials.

Senate Bill 5308 would fix one longstanding flaw in the personal financial disclosure forms (known as F1s) by requiring a more accurate accounting of the value for the wealthiest filers’ assets and income sources.

The values of assets and income are reported in broad ranges represented by letter codes. The smallest category “A” goes from $1 to $3,999. The highest category, “E”, tops out at “$100,000 or more” — a range that is not terribly helpful when it comes to assessing real-estate holdings or other big investments.

SB 5038 would alter the values so the smallest category, “A” would represent “$30,000 or less.” The ranges would go up from there, with the new top code of “H” representing “$1,000,000 or more.”

The bill also would clarify how certain assets’ values are reported, such as stocks that rise and fall in value throughout the year.

State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, is the bill’s prime sponsor. It is scheduled for a hearing Monday at 10 a.m. in the Senate Government Operations & State Security Committee, which Roach chairs. A companion measure, HB 1397, has been introduced in the state House of Representatives.

One issue the bills would not address is the PDC’s refusal to post the filings online, as is the practice in many states.

The PDC broached the idea of posting the forms on the Internet but got a bunch of blowback from the officials and political candidates who have to file them.

“We got a lot of concerns over privacy and security and some other issues,” said PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson. She said the commission has put the idea of posting the forms online on “pause” for now, but may take another look in the future.

About 6,000 public officials and candidates are required to file the F1 reports each year, including state legislators and other state elected officials, local elected officials, public university presidents and trustees, and some top staffers to the Legislature and governor.

While not available online, the reports are routinely made available by the PDC upon request.

 

Comments | More in State government, State Legislature | Topics: personal financial disclosures, Public Disclosure Commission

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