HARRISBURG – The Senate State Government Committee approved a bill on Tuesday that will strengthen the state’s open records law, Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) said.
“Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law is one of the most important tools the public can use to hold its government accountable,” Mastriano said. “This legislation expands the scope of the open records law to fix oversights and make other improvements long overdue.”
Mastriano introduced Senate Bill 492 last year as the continuance of a multi-year effort to update the 2008 Right to Know Law. Some of the improvements proposed in the legislation include:
- Add “campus police” to the definition of “location agency” so that they are covered by in the same manner as municipal police departments;
- Requires agencies to maintain all records involved in a Right-to-Know request until the request has been responded to and any related appeals have been exhausted;
- Clarifies that the non-criminal investigative exception does not apply to final safety inspection reports made pursuant to law or regulation or final agency decisions;
- Allow a court to impose a civil penalty of up to $500 per day if an agency or public official fails to comply with an order under the Right-to-Know Law, including a final determination issued by the OOR;
- Clarifies that if a public record exists in a specific computer file format, the agency must provide the record in that format upon request;
- Clarify that certain tax forms (e.g., federal Form W-2) are “personal financial information” and not public;
- Expand the definition of “local agency” to clarify that entities such as economic development authorities and industrial development authorities are covered;
- Change the time frame for responses depending on how the original request was submitted;
- Make changes to the time frame for the appeal process, reflecting the real-world experience of the OOR and ensuring the ability to conduct hearings when appropriate;
- Require the OOR to abstain from public comment on pending proceedings.
Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law, established in 2008, created an Office of Open Records to process requests for documents from public agencies, such as the governor’s administration, legislative and judicial agencies and local organizations.
Senate Bill 492 now heads to the Senate for consideration.
CONTACT: Doug Zubeck