BILL REQ. #:  S-0315.2 


State of Washington63rd Legislature2013 Regular Session

By Senator Benton

Read first time 01/14/13.   Referred to Committee on Governmental Operations .

     AN ACT Relating to the use of public resources by office holders during campaigns; and amending RCW 42.52.180 and 42.52.185.


Sec. 1   RCW 42.52.180 and 2011 c 60 s 30 are each amended to read as follows:
     (1) No state officer or state employee may use or authorize the use of facilities of an agency, directly or indirectly, for the purpose of assisting a campaign for election of a person to an office or for the promotion of or opposition to a ballot proposition. Knowing acquiescence by a person with authority to direct, control, or influence the actions of the state officer or state employee using public resources in violation of this section constitutes a violation of this section. Facilities of an agency include, but are not limited to, use of stationery, postage, machines, and equipment, use of state employees of the agency during working hours, vehicles, office space, publications of the agency, and clientele lists of persons served by the agency.
     (2) This section shall not apply to the following activities:
     (a) Action taken at an open public meeting by members of an elected legislative body to express a collective decision, or to actually vote upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order, or ordinance, or to support or oppose a ballot proposition as long as (i) required notice of the meeting includes the title and number of the ballot proposition, and (ii) members of the legislative body or members of the public are afforded an approximately equal opportunity for the expression of an opposing view;
     (b) A statement by an elected official in support of or in opposition to any ballot proposition at an open press conference or in response to a specific inquiry. For the purposes of this subsection, it is not a violation of this section for an elected official to respond to an inquiry regarding a ballot proposition, to make incidental remarks concerning a ballot proposition in an official communication, or otherwise comment on a ballot proposition without an actual, measurable expenditure of public funds. The ethics boards shall adopt by rule a definition of measurable expenditure;
     (c) The maintenance of official legislative web sites throughout the year, regardless of pending elections. The web sites may contain any discretionary material which was also specifically prepared for the legislator in the course of his or her duties as a legislator, including newsletters and press releases. ((The official legislative web sites of legislators seeking reelection shall not be altered between June 30th and November 15th of the election year.)) The web site shall not be used for campaign purposes;
     (d) Activities that are part of the normal and regular conduct of the office or agency, regardless of whether or not an office holder is running for election or reelection to office. The timing of pending elections or campaigns must not operate to prohibit legislators from producing materials, utilizing staff and other state resources, attending functions, or engaging in all other legislative activities properly associated with their office; and
     (e) De minimis use of public facilities by statewide elected officials and legislators incidental to the preparation or delivery of permissible communications, including written and verbal communications initiated by them of their views on ballot propositions that foreseeably may affect a matter that falls within their constitutional or statutory responsibilities.
     (3) Newsletters are a vital means of communication between legislators and their constituents, and open communication from a legislator to those he or she serves is imperative to representative democracy. As a result, members have complete discretionary control, subject only to budget limitations, as to the content, text, language, and format of newsletters. In no case may any newsletter content be considered campaign activity for purposes of this chapter.
As to state officers and employees, this section operates to the exclusion of RCW 42.17A.555.

Sec. 2   RCW 42.52.185 and 2011 c 60 s 31 are each amended to read as follows:
     (1) During the twelve-month period beginning on December 1st of the year before a general election for a state legislator's election to office and continuing through November 30th immediately after the general election, the legislator may not mail, either by regular mail or electronic mail, to a constituent at public expense a letter, ((newsletter,)) brochure, or other piece of literature, except as follows:
     (a) The legislator may mail two mailings of newsletters to constituents. All newsletters within each mailing of newsletters must be identical as to their content but not as to the constituent name or address. ((One such mailing may be mailed no later than thirty days after the start of a regular legislative session, except that a legislator appointed during a regular legislative session to fill a vacant seat may have up to thirty days from the date of appointment to send out the first mailing. The other mailing may be mailed no later than sixty days after the end of a regular legislative session.))
     (b) The legislator may mail an individual letter to (i) an individual constituent who has contacted the legislator regarding the subject matter of the letter during the legislator's current term of office; (ii) an individual constituent who holds a governmental office with jurisdiction over the subject matter of the letter; or (iii) an individual constituent who has received an award or honor of extraordinary distinction of a type that is sufficiently infrequent to be noteworthy to a reasonable person, including, but not limited to: (A) An international or national award such as the Nobel prize or the Pulitzer prize; (B) a state award such as Washington scholar; (C) an Eagle Scout award; and (D) a Medal of Honor.
     (c) In those cases where constituents have specifically indicated that they would like to be contacted to receive regular or periodic updates on legislative matters, legislators may provide such updates by electronic mail throughout the legislative session and up until thirty days from the conclusion of a legislative session.
     (2) For purposes of subsection (1) of this section, "legislator" means a legislator who is a "candidate," as defined by RCW 42.17A.005, for any public office.
     (3) A violation of this section constitutes use of the facilities of a public office for the purpose of assisting a campaign under RCW 42.52.180.
     (4) The house of representatives and senate shall specifically limit expenditures per member for the total cost of mailings. Those costs include, but are not limited to, production costs, printing costs, and postage costs. The limits imposed under this subsection apply only to the total expenditures on mailings per member and not to any categorical cost within the total.
     (5) For purposes of this section, persons residing outside the legislative district represented by the legislator are not considered to be constituents, but students, military personnel, or others temporarily employed outside of the district who normally reside in the district are considered to be constituents.

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