In July 2017, the Washington legislature passed House Bill 1594 (HB1594) 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 and request was fulfilled/denied, why a how records were provided, and costs associated with responding to requests. Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC), an entity responsible for providing guidance on complying with Washington laws, has made several updates to the required metrics, most recently in April 2022. This guide and the NextRequest HB1594 report reflect the most recent written guidance provided by JLARC. Review the Public Records Data Reporting Guidelines, last updated in April 2022.
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 setup, 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 for Message Templates, Closure Responses, and Tags to set up to ensure that you can easily gather the data you need when it comes time to report.
- Background on New Reporting Requirements
- Tracking Required Metrics in NextRequest
- Recommended Setup in NextRequest
- Generate an HB1594 Report from NextRequest
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Background on New Reporting Requirements
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 use the attached Agency Cost Threshold Worksheet (XLS).
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 called the JLARC Public Records Requests Reporting System for submitting reports.
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 in the Certification of Enrollment for Engrossed House Bill 1594 (PDF) 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 with baseline data to calculate the metrics for that agency. The data required has gone through several revisions, most recently in April 2022, 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 in the Public Records Data Reporting Guidelines. It will be updated to incorporate any future guidance released by JLARC.
Tracking Required Metrics in NextRequest
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 Public Records Data Reporting Guidelines.
Automatically Tracked Metrics
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:
- Metric 1: Number of requests where the records were provided within five days of receiving the request.
- Metric 2: Number of requests where an estimated response time beyond five days was provided.
- Metric 3: The average and median number of days from receipt of a request to the date the request is closed.
- Metric 4: Total number of public records requests for which the agency formally sought additional clarification from the requester.
- Metric 5: Total number of requests denied in full or in part and the most common reasons for denying requests.
- Metric 6: Total number of requests abandoned by requesters.
- Metric 15: Total expenses recovered by the agency from requesters.
Manually Tracked Metrics
These metrics will require manual input by users but can be incorporated into the regular actions they take when responding to requests
- Metric 7: Total number of requests, by type of requester.
- Metric 8: Percent of requests fulfilled electronically compared to the percentage of requests fulfilled by physical records.
- Metric 9: Total number of requests where one or more physical records were scanned to create an electronic version to fulfill disclosure.
- Metric 10: Average estimated staff time spent on each public records request.
- Metric 11: Estimated total costs incurred by the agency in fulfilling records requests, such as staff compensation.
Metrics 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:
- Metric 12: Total number of claims filed.
- Metric 13: Total and average cost of fulfilling requests, such as the cost of materials.
- Metric 13: Total costs incurred by the agency litigating claims.
- Metric 14: Estimated costs incurred by the agency with managing and retaining records.
Recommended Set Up in NextRequest
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. You should consider these recommendations a starting point, feel free to give them different names based on what will make the most sense for your users.
In some cases, you may want to track the information using a different NextRequest feature than 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.
- “Estimate of anticipated response time”
- “Clarification from requester needed”
- Closure responses for five (5) to ten (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 the NextRequest Payments module.
Note: 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.
Generate 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 portals by default. If you are not seeing the HB1594 report as an option in the Reports tab please submit a NextRequest ticket.
Who can use this feature?Admin | Department Admin
- Log into your portal
- Navigate to the Admin header and click Reports in the drop-down
- Click the button labeled HB1594 Report
- Use the default Date Range, select Year to Date, or enter a Custom date range
- If needed, select Tags to exempt any request with the selected tags from the report
- Click the Export button