Sheldon bills require agencies to “show their work,” protect privacy for process servers

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Hoodsport.

Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

OLYMPIA… The Washington state Senate has approved a pair of bills sponsored by state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, requiring state agencies to provide more information about the science they use in land-use decisions, and protecting privacy for process servers.

Sheldon’s “empirical science” measure cleared the Senate March 3 on a 27-21 vote. Senate Bill 5622 was inspired by the anger of Thurston County property owners who faced land-use restrictions because of the presumed presence of the Mazama pocket gopher, a threatened species.

“It’s the same basic idea that schoolteachers have when they tell their students to work out math problems on paper,” Sheldon said. “State agencies should have to show their work.”

The bill imposes new requirements on the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and on two permit-granting programs of the Department of Ecology, the water quality program and the shorelands and environmental assistance program. Before taking a significant action diminishing private-property rights, the agencies would have to publicly list on their websites all empirical science they relied upon in making their decision.

The agencies already face similar disclosure requirements under state law – they must identify peer-reviewed science, scientific literature and other sources of scientific information they rely upon. Sheldon said the additional requirement will discourage distortions of science in order to achieve political goals.
Senate Bill 5523 eliminates a requirement that process servers provide their Social Security numbers when they register with county auditors. The measure reduces the chance of security breaches that could reveal identifiable information. It passed 47-1 March 4.