AG seeks to curb online cigarette sales, help for those facing foreclosure

Chris Rizo Jan. 8, 2009, 12:53pm

Rob McKenna (R)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline)-Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna says he is asking the state Legislature to pass a bevy of new state laws - from banning Internet cigarette sales to allowing those facing foreclosure to get a real estate agent to sell their home.

The popular attorney general, who handily won re-election in November, said Thursday he wants to, among other things, end abuse of the state's public records laws by prison inmates and wants to ensure local governments comply with the state's Open Public Meetings Act.

Washington law currently allows local officials to conduct some types of business behind closed doors such as discussing legal or business strategies, but the law doesn't allow government bodies to make decisions in secret.

McKenna said he wants to provide protection for decisions made in an illegal closed meeting so long as the body acknowledges the violation at its next regular meeting and does not anticipate being sued over the closed meeting.

When it comes to online sales of cigarettes, the attorney general said he wants to bar the shipment of cigarettes purchased through the Internet or by mail order to anyone other than licensed wholesalers or retailers.

When the state Legislature convenes Monday for a 105-day session, McKenna also wants lawmakers to begin an effort to make it more difficult for prison and jail inmates to make public records requests that are intended solely to harass officials.

"Endless, broad public records requests bog down the system and waste taxpayer time and money." said Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, who will prime-sponsor the bill in the Senate. "There's also a community protection component to this because some inmates are using drift nets to fish for personal information on law enforcement and corrections officers, judges and their families, when they should be limited to using one line at a time."

Also on McKenna's list of legislative priorities is a proposal to exempt real estate licensees from the definition of a "distressed home consultant."

The plan would allow struggling homeowners at risk of foreclosure to find real estate agents to sell their homes.

"Over the last two years, we've worked to help families stay in their homes during the worst economic downturn in two generations," McKenna said. "That's why we fought last year for $200 million in relief and new, affordable loan terms for nearly 10,000 Countrywide mortgage customers. And that's why we're going to work to update last year's foreclosure rescue bill to make sure that any homeowner who wants to sell their home rather than face foreclosure is able to find a real estate agent to work with them."

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