Rep. Dan Kristiansen’s ‘Legislation in Focus’- House Bills 2261 and 2262: Show your work, state agencies!


June 3, 2014

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Legislation in Focus
House Bills 2261 and 2262: Show your work, state agencies!
By Rep. Dan Kristiansen
Special to the chambers of commerce

Remember in school when your math teacher would ask you to show your work? The teacher not only wanted the answer, but wanted you to clearly show the process of how you came to that conclusion.

For too many years, state agencies have been imposing rules and regulations on citizens as answers to perceived problems. But many times, these agencies never really “showed their work.” In other words, they didn’t show to the public the proof that a problem exists, and they didn’t show why or how a particular rule or action was necessary. As a result, there’s been a growing disconnect between state agencies and the people they are supposed to serve.

An example is when the state Department of Ecology (DOE) sent more than 30 warning letters last year to landowners, many of whom are cattle owners in Eastern Washington, accusing them of having the potential to pollute waterways. The enforcement letters were not in response to any complaints and there is no evidence the waters were being polluted. Instead, DOE decided these landowners have the “potential to pollute.” It was very concerning to these ranchers who feared the same consequences as a Dayton cattle owner who had received a similar letter in 2003 and was told he would have to install fencing or face a $10,000 per–day fine.

Washington Agriculture Legal Foundation Executive Director Toni Meacham said DOE is not using science to pursue water quality testing and does not conduct DNA tests to see if the source of the supposed pollution is livestock, wildlife or human-caused.

“How can we get to a solution when we don’t know what the problem is?” she asked during a meeting of 170 landowners last October.

It is a valid point. State agencies have a great deal of power. Sometimes it is necessary to rein them in when they overstep their authority. That’s why this year, I supported legislation to hold unelected bureaucrats accountable for their actions by requiring them to make public the sources of scientific information they use as the basis for their actions and rules.

House Bills 2261 and 2262, which passed the Legislature and were signed into law, specifically require the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and DOE to “show their work” by categorizing on their websites the sources of information relied upon in support of significant agency actions.

The categories include:

  • independently peer-reviewed by a third party;
  • internally peer-reviewed by the agency staff;
  • externally peer-reviewed by agency-selected persons;
  • openly-reviewed documents whose review was not limited to invited organizations or individuals;
  • legal and policy documents;
  • data from primary research or monitoring activities that has not been otherwise peer-reviewed;
  • records of the best professional judgment of agency employees and other individuals; and
  • other sources of information.

Ronald Reagan once said “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'” It shouldn’t have to be this way, but government agencies that overstep their bounds reinforce this fear.

If state agencies are taking action against citizens, they darn well better clearly show their work to explain why and how they came to those conclusions. House Bills 2261 and 2262 will ensure transparency and allow the impacted communities, citizens and local governments to fact-check the agencies and hold them accountable.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish, represents the 39th Legislative District. He can be reached through his website:


Rep. Kristiansen’s media:
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