Attorney General Rob McKenna today released his 2008 legislative agenda, incorporating the work of a myriad of task forces and work groups into a solid group of community safety, consumer protection and government accountability initiatives.
“This agenda builds on our past policy initiatives, strengthening and expanding our state’s ability to protect people from identity theft, domestic violence, Internet crimes against children,” McKenna said.
“Our office is also working with others to protect homeowners from losing their homes through misuse of eminent domain statutes or mortgage rescue scams,” he said. “Finally, we’re helping improve government accountability by focusing on the state’s Open Public Meetings act. All of these initiatives are the result of collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders in Washington.”
Guarding Washington residents from identity theft
- Requires police to take police reports from victims of ID theft—either in their local jurisdiction or with the agency where the crime occurred
- Allows prosecutors to bring separate charges against an accused identity thief for each use of a particular piece of someone’s personal information
- Allows records provided by out-of-state businesses to be authenticated by affidavit--rather than in person--in criminal cases
Protecting consumers from mortgage foreclosure
“In this time of rising mortgage rates, desperate homeowners have been lured by offers of assistance – only to be cheated out of equity they’ve built up and tricked into transferring ownership of their home,” McKenna said. “Cons gain ownership of the home for much less than its actual value, then evict the family and sell the home – stealing a families’ equity and leaving them homeless.
“The Attorney General’s Office is requesting legislation to reduce foreclosure rescue schemes that include an option to buy or lease back the property from the purchaser,” McKenna said.
The requested legislation:
- Requires a written contract with clearly disclosed terms--signed and dated by the homeowner and the purchaser prior to the property’s transfer
- Provides the foreclosed homeowner with the right to cancel the contract within five business days
- Requires that the homeowner must receive at least 82 percent of the difference between the property’s fair market value and the underlying mortgage in the event of a sale to a third party
Prohibiting third-party marketing of cell phone numbers
“In 2005, the Legislature unanimously passed a law requiring cell phone companies to obtain “opt-in” consent from subscribers before publishing their wireless phone numbers in directories. Now, despite this legislation, online companies are compiling and selling cell phone numbers and other personal information,” McKenna said.
“The Attorney General’s Office has proposed a bill to require people who compile, market or sell phone numbers for commercial purposes to also obtain a consumer’s opt-in consent before publishing wireless phone numbers in directories," he said. "Violators could be fined up to $50,000.”
Shutting down spyware
- Removes onerous requirements that hinder ability to prove cases against violators
- Creates liability for Web hosting services who ignore violators’ use of their products or merchants who pay others to violate the law
- Adds violations for new forms of spyware
- Clarifies the standards for proof of violations and the circumstances under which actions may be brought
Youth Internet Safety
- Creates a new crime of “Viewing Child Pornography” to address child pornography on the Internet
- Amends the law to allow non-commissioned police personnel trained in forensic analysis to assist in child pornography investigations
Adds victims of domestic violence victims to the list of employees eligible for shared leave
Executive sessions (to be joint request with Auditor Brian Sonntag)
- Requires an audio recording of complete executive sessions
- Makes the recording a public record, not subject to disclosure except by court order
- Allows an individual alleging an improper executive session to petition a court to review the audio recording and the court will determine whether there was an improper executive session
- Permits the court to disclose only those portions of the audio recording where it finds a violation of the executive session provisions
- Allows any documents relied upon in an improper executive session to be subject to disclosure if not otherwise exempt
Open Public Meetings Act
- Directs the Attorney General’s Office to develop advisory model rules by Feb. 1, 2009
- Requires the Attorney General’s Office to publish a plain-language pamphlet explaining the OPMA.
- Increases public notice of special meetings
Paying penalty awards to crime victims
- Prohibits an incarcerated person requesting public records from receiving penalty awards for an agency’s unlawful non-disclosure
- Pays penalty awards would to the crime victims’ compensation program
- Seeks to redefine “blight” narrowly to apply to specific properties and not general areas that might include non-blighted land
- Prohibits the use of eminent domain for private redevelopment
- Requires publishing a pamphlet in plain language explaining eminent domain
Janelle Guthrie, APR, Communications Director