On July 2017, Washington legislature passed House Bill 1594 which updated the state public records act. Among other things, the bill requires state and local agencies in Washington to annually report metrics around how they respond to public records requests. The metrics focus on average response times, reasons why a request was fulfilled/denied, why a how records were provided, and costs associated with responding to requests. JLARC (entity responsible for providing guidance on complying with WA laws) has made several updates to the required metrics, most recently in May 2019. This guide and the NextRequest HB1594 report reflects the most recent recent written guidance provided by JLARC (May 2019 guide can be found here).
Much of the information that needs to be reported can be tracked automatically in NextRequest and then downloaded as a report. With some initial planning and set up, the required metrics can be recorded as part of the regular work your staff is already doing to respond to requests. In this guide we’ll review the reporting requirements and give recommendations of Message Templates, Closure Responses, and Tags to set up to ensure that you an easily gather the data you need when it comes time to report.
This guide covers:
- Background on New Reporting Requirements
- Overview of Tracking Required Metrics in NextRequest
- Recommended Set Up in NextRequest
- Generating an HB1594 Report in NextRequest
Which agencies are obligated to report?
Washington state and local agencies that spent at least $100,000 a year fulfilling public records requests to report annually on metrics around public records requests. If you are not sure if your agency spends more than $100,000 annually on records requests you can find a spreadsheet for calculating this here.
When are reports due and what period do they cover?
Reports are due annually by August 1st and cover the previous calendar year.
Where am I supposed to submit my report?
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) has built an online data collection system which can be accessed here.
What metrics need to be reported?
There are 17 metrics specified in the bill, focusing on average response times, reasons why a request was fulfilled/denied, why a how records were provided, and costs associated with responding to requests. The text of HB1594 as passed by the legislature can be found here with the metrics starting on page 7.
The metrics listed in the bill are not the numbers that agencies will be reporting to JLARC. Instead, agencies are being asked to report between 1 and 5 data points for each metric that will then be combined baseline data to calculate the metrics for that agency. The data required has gone through several revisions, most recently in May 2019, as JLARC has taken into account the information provided in the first year of reporting. The recommendations in this guide are based on the latest JLARC guidance which can be found here. It will be updated to incorporate any future guidance released by JLARC.
The metrics that need to be tracked and reported to JLARC cover a range of information categories related to the records request process. Many of these are automatically tracked in all portals, or can be tracked automatically after some initial setup. Others will require some manual work but can be incorporated into the regular actions taken on request. We’ve broken down what categories each metric falls under below. The number in parentheses is the one assigned to the metric in the appendix of the JLARC guide.
We’ve created a more detailed breakdown of how each metric is tracked in NextRequest in a spreadsheet here. We encourage you to download a copy of the spreadsheet and add information specific to your agency.
Metrics that can be tracked automatically in NextRequest: These metrics cover actions that are either tracked by default, or will be tracked once the agency sets up (and consistently uses) applicable closure responses and templates. They are:
- Number of requests where the records were provided within five days of receiving the request (1)
- Number of requests where an estimated response time beyond five days was provided (2)
- Average and median number of days from receipt of request to the date the request is closed (3)
- Total number of public records requests for which the agency formally sought additional clarification from the requester (4)
- Total number of requests denied in full or in part and the most common reasons for denying requests (5)
- Total number of requests abandoned by requesters (6)
- Total expenses recovered by the agency from requesters (15)
Metrics that can be manually tracked in NextRequest These metrics will require manual input by users, but can be incorporated into the regular actions they take when responding to requests
- Total number of requests, by type of requester (7)
- Percent of requests fulfilled electronically compared to the percent of requests fulfilled by physical records (8)
- Total number of requests where one or more physical records were scanned to create an electronic version to fulfill disclosure (9)
- Average estimated staff time spent on each public records request (10)
- Estimated total costs incurred by the agency in fulfilling records requests - staff compensation (11)
Metrics that should be tracked outside of NextRequest: These metrics cover actions that happen mostly or entirely outside of NextRequest and are likely already tracked in other places. They are:
- Total and average cost of fulfilling requests - cost of materials (13)
- Total number of claims filed (12)
- Total costs incurred by the agency litigating claims (13)
- Estimated costs incurred by the agency with managing and retaining records (14)
We’ve put together a list of Templates, Closure Responses, and Tags, as well as other NextRequest features that we recommend setting up as soon as possible to ensure that the HB1594 metrics are tracked for your portal. You can see a detailed breakdown of which metric each of these matches up with here. You should consider these recommendations a starting point - feel free to give them different names based on what will make most sense for your users. In some cases you may want to track the information using a different NextRequest feature then we’ve recommended (for example where we’ve recommended a template you may want to use a tag instead). We strongly encourage you though to have one template, closure response, or tag that is equivalent to each of these categories. Most important is that your users always use the relevant template or closure response when responding to a request, and add tags, hours, and estimated fulfillment data as relevant.
Recommended Message Templates:
- “Estimate of anticipated response time”
- “Clarification from requester needed”
Recommended Closure Responses:
- Closure responses for 5-10 most common denial reasons
- “Insufficient contact information”
- “Partial denial/records redacted”
- “Abandoned by requester”
- “No responsive records”
- “Not fulfilled (other)”
- “Electronic records”
- “Physical records”
- “Records scanned”
- “Claim filed”
- “1a Individuals”
- “1b Law firms”
- “1c Organizations”
- “1d Insurers”
- “1e Governments”
- “1f Incarcerated persons”
- “1g Media”
- “1h Current/former employees”
- “1i No/insufficient info”
- “1j Other”
Other Recommended Set Up:
- Set up NextRequest Payments module (if your agency doesn’t yet have this let us know)
- Create an Invoice template that includes spaces for customized charges
- Enter an hourly rate for all users
Generating an HB1594 Report from NextRequest
The HB1594 report is accessible to Admins and Department Admins and is accessible from the Reports tab in the top right. It should be visible on all Washington agency portal by default. If you are not seeing the HB1594 report as an option in the Reports tab please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steps for generating an HB1594 report
- Log into your portal (you must be an Admin or Department Admin)
- Click the Reports link in the top right
- Click the button labeled 'HB1594 Report'
- Make sure the default date range is the one you want. If not select 'Custom' from the drop-down and enter the appropriate start and end dates
- Click the Confirm button