Mastriano Bill Updating Pennsylvania’s Open Records Law Approved in Committee

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

SB488 Expanding Open Records Legislation

“State-related universities will receive more than $600 million from taxpayers this year and the way that money is spent shouldn’t be a closely-guarded secret,” Mastriano said. “This legislation offers a level of transparency necessary to keep these universities accountable to the public they serve.”

Senate Approves Mastriano’s Bill Expanding Open Records Law

HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a bill today that will expand Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law to provide greater access to public records at state-related universities, Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) said.

“The value of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law has proven itself time and again, but it’s not perfect by any means,” Mastriano said. “This bill crucially expands its scope to include pertinent public records at state-related universities, as 47 out of 50 other states already do.”

Senate Bill 488, sponsored by Mastriano, would create an online searchable database that details information about budgets and contracts approved by the Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln University. The legislation also increases the amount of university personnel salary information subject to public disclosure.

“State-related universities will receive more than $600 million from taxpayers this year and the way that money is spent shouldn’t be a closely-guarded secret,” Mastriano said. “This legislation offers a level of transparency necessary to keep these universities accountable to the public they serve.”

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.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

CONTACT: Doug Zubeck

SB1123 – “Blue Lights” Legislation

The inspiration for this bill came from a local tow truck operator who discovered that operators in several other states had the option for blue lights and the rate of roadside accidents was lower in those states.

SB1152 House Judiciary

Pennsylvania currently lags behind other neighboring states in accurately capturing and mapping real-time data.  The enactment of this legislation will help save lives.

Parental Notification of Sexually Explicit Content

The parents should have the last word, that I even have to say this in Pennsylvania in 2022 is a bit hard for me.  We’re not talking about a lion out of the “Catcher in the Rye” or a line out of any book that has been semi-controversial, we’re talking about very graphic pictures that are certainly not age appropriate.

Mastriano Renews Call for Tyler’s Law as Rainbow Fentanyl Poses Heightened Danger

HARRISBURG – Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) renewed the call for Pennsylvania to get tougher on drug dealers after reports of a more potent, rainbow-colored version of fentanyl circulating on the West Coast made recent headlines across the nation.

“This alarming news proves exactly why fentanyl dealers in Pennsylvania must pay for the lives they take every day,” Mastriano said. “I introduced Tyler’s Law to impose harsher sentences on drug delivery resulting in death. Dealers shouldn’t walk away scot-free for callously profiting off the escalating opioid epidemic.”

Senate Bill 1295, introduced in June, would impose a 25-year mandatory minimum for fentanyl distribution resulting in death. The sentence would only cover monetary transactions and wouldn’t apply to drug users that share with friends and family or seek medical help when another individual is overdosing.

Mastriano dubbed the bill “Tyler’s Law” in remembrance of 18-year-old Tyler Shanafelter, a district resident who overdosed and died when he unwittingly bought fentanyl-laced Percocet.

“Tyler’s tragic death should not be in vain,” Mastriano said. “Although nothing we can do will bring this young man back to his family, we can take steps to prevent more unnecessary death and suffering.”

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It’s often cut, colored, scored, pressed and then sold as a counterfeit version of other narcotics like OxyContin, Percocet or Xanax. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can trigger an overdose.

That’s why Mastriano is renewing focus on his legislation after Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon issued a warning to the public last week about rainbow fentanyl, which sometimes resembles sidewalk chalk or candy, discovered during a warranted search in northeast Portland.

Investigators believe this version of the drug is stronger and will lead to more overdoses, especially among children and young adults who may find the design more appealing.

Fentanyl is easier to produce and distribute than heroin, making it a popular choice among dealers and traffickers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were over 100,000 fentanyl and opioid related deaths in 2021, a 15% increase from 2020. The epidemic only seems to be worsening here in Pennsylvania. 

Under Pennsylvania’s current “drug delivery resulting in death” statute, defendants often cut deals for lenient sentencing and little to no jail time.

“The current punishment, or lack thereof, is unacceptable,” Mastriano said. “We must send a message to drug dealers that if you kill Pennsylvanians through the sale of fentanyl, you will be spending most of the rest of your life in prison.”

CONTACT: Doug Zubeck

Op-Ed: Pennsylvanians Losing Hope Over Inflation Woes

Empty pantries. Unfilled medications. Depleted savings. I recently poured over hundreds of comments like these from my constituents regarding the issue concerning them most: the growing toll inflation takes on their survival.

Of the roughly 650 people who responded to my poll, 92% said they are worse off today than they were last year. Another 95% said they feel the pain of inflation at the gas pump and the grocery store. Many told me the cost to fill their tank has tripled, while electric bills and food purchases have risen by hundreds of dollars each month.

Others say they’ve dipped into savings and delayed retirement just to handle the worsening economic situation. Parents forgo new clothing and school supplies as their children embark on another academic year, elderly and disabled residents on fixed incomes fret over property tax hikes, small business owners watch sales plummet and income halved, while others consider fleeing Pennsylvania altogether.

This widespread suffering weighs on my mind every day and the responsibility I bear to fix it grows heavier by the minute. I wish I could say the same for my colleagues across the aisle, spurred on by a feckless gubernatorial administration only interested in throwing money at our problems in hopes they’ll just disappear.

Ordinary Pennsylvanians know this tactic only makes things worse. There’s no such thing as free money, especially when it’s our hard-earned dollars the state is using to appease Gov. Tom Wolf’s progressive allies. It’s the same pattern we see at the congressional level, where President Joe Biden just signed the Inflation Reduction Act – a misnomer, at best, to distract from the billions in handouts it awards to green energy.

Even the nonpartisan Congressional Office of the Budget admits the legislation will increase taxes on the middle class – those making under $400,000 annually – by $20 billion over the next decade. This, on top of the $410 million carbon tax the Wolf administration is fighting tooth and nail to impose on electricity ratepayers through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

A bipartisan mix of lawmakers oppose RGGI because it could nearly quadruple energy costs by 2030 with virtually zero reduction in carbon emissions. It threatens tens of thousands of jobs and punishes millions of residents unable to afford greener options, like electric heat pumps and solar panels.

My constituents tell me their electricity bills have already inflated by hundreds of dollars each month, leaving them with difficult choices to make about which bills get paid. If Senate Republicans’ legal challenge to stop RGGI once and for all fails, these costs will skyrocket even more.

But Wolf’s policies don’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, the Biden administration’s ruinous strategies amplify the struggle we all face just to drive to work and keep our lights on. From restrictive gas drilling regulations to the billions in aid we funnel to Ukraine to defeat a war against Russia we swear we aren’t fighting, both Democratic leaders believe the middle class should fund their self-serving ambitions.

That’s why I sponsored Senate Bill 813 to temporarily institute a gas tax holiday that would shave 15 cents off the price per gallon for six months. The legislation also implements registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles to offset the lost revenue from the tax cut to maintain funding for roads and bridges.

We know, however, that energy is just one facet of this spiraling economic crisis. Local governments often lean on property taxes to fill widening budget gaps, a strategy that hits residents surviving on fixed incomes the hardest. With more than 2.2 million seniors living in Pennsylvania, this hardship isn’t limited to my district alone.

Eliminating property taxes for residents 65 and older could benefit as many as 176,000 seniors currently living below the poverty line. Legislation I introduced last year would extend this relief to elderly residents who’ve lived in Pennsylvania for 10 years or longer and make less than $40,000 annually.

Our seniors have spent decades working and contributing taxes to our state. They shouldn’t fear losing their homes because of the inflationary spiral that’s wreaking havoc on our lives.

I’m not the only one taking action to quell this disaster. My Republican colleagues and I have likewise championed legislation to lower taxes on businesses, which will translate into wage growth and economic prosperity.

We’ve dismissed the governor’s proposals to increase personal income taxes, collect higher fees from oil and gas operators and drain our state’s savings account. We’ve sued to block his onerous regulations meant to punish industry and raise prices for all. We’ve asked voters to step in and tell us where they stand on our most fundamental issues, rather than letting the administration dictate to us what they think is best.

In that vein, I’ll conclude with just a handful of the hundreds of comments I’ve received from my constituents about the hardships they face. Don’t just take my word for it:

  • “I have to watch every penny and try to budget even further in the event that inflation gets worse so my family will still be able to afford to pay bills, buy food, and gasoline so I can get to work. It’s scary and frustrating. “
  • HARD decisions have to be made. Pay health insurance or the utility bills? HAVE to go to work, HAVE to use gas, how is anyone coming out ahead? We were barely making even BEFORE inflation hit.” 
  • “I don’t fill my tank up all the way. I put enough in to get me 2 to 3 days. I can’t afford my co-pays to go to [the] doctor. Even when I work 30 hours OT in 2 weeks.”
  • We are on SS and it is almost impossible to make our money take us till the next month. With all the bills going higher, but our checks do not get and higher. We have to make choices if we should pay rent, or go to the doctor and pay the copays, or pay the bills, or get medication, or eat, or use the gas to do any of the above.”
  • We have several kids [and] it’s very hard to even have all the essentials now. It is very hard to have food for all my kids all the time. And gas is so expensive to even go to work. Basically working to pay for gas and food no money for anything else.”
  • Inflation has caused me to put my business up for sale due to a drastic drop in sales. Only form of income so barely getting buy and hoping for the best.” 
  • “All of our utilities are behind or in shut off status. We have been late on our house payment the last few months. We basically go to work and back home because we are trying to conserve what gas we have. Everything has gone up, but our wages.”
  • “Barely keeping our head above water. Depending on the outcome of the midterms, we may have to leave the country. Things are completely out of control.”
  • We can’t save for a new house due to everything else increasing. My husband drives a truck and his fuel prices have almost tripled! We need your help!”
  • The prices of everything are so high we have to sacrifice a lot of things just to eat and provide electric in my household. Whoever reads this please help!”

CONTACT: Doug Zubeck


Mastriano: Department of Corrections Must Fire Pedophile Sympathizer

HARRISBURG – Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) sent a letter to the Department of Corrections Acting Secretary George Little today demanding answers about the extent of its working relationship with Miranda Galbreath, a licensed therapist that touts destigmatizing pedophiles.

“Galbreath’s reprehensible views have no place in our state prisons, let alone our society,” Mastriano said. “I demand Galbreath’s professional relationship with our state end immediately and request a response regarding her involvement in counseling inmates at state correctional institutions and the extent to which this extremist ideology has infiltrated the department.”

Galbreath, in a 10-minute video posted on her YouTube channel and circulating on social media, describes herself as an Erie-based licensed therapist who routinely treats sex offenders in state prisons. Her LinkedIn profile likewise specifies she’s a full-time professional counselor for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and she’s listed on PennWatch as a psychological services specialist for the department as of July 15.

“Galbreath has the nerve to suggest using the word ‘pedophile … causes harm’ to those convicted of sexual crimes against children,” Mastriano said. “This revolting rhetoric prioritizes the humanity of child abusers over the protection and healing of their victims. The department must address this, now.”

CONTACT: Doug Zubeck

Mastriano: Election Reform Vital After Supreme Court’s Partisan Act 77 Ruling

HARRISBURG – Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) released the following statement today after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld Act 77, the state’s no-excuse mail-in voting law, as constitutional:

“I’ve made it clear unconstitutional meddling from Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration poisoned Act 77 and made it unethical for Pennsylvania to continue to allow no-excuse mail-in voting. As expected, the Democratic majority on the state Supreme Court condoned the administration’s deplorable behavior, because apparently partisan loyalty is more important to them than upholding the constitution.

That’s why the General Assembly must capitalize on the momentum of our initial election integrity reforms and reinsert safeguards back into the process so that Pennsylvanians can trust their votes will truly count.

Don’t let Democrats fool you. They hated Act 77 and voted against it in 2019 because it eliminated straight ticket voting and the advantage it afforded them for decades in statewide races. Then corrupt administration officials reinterpreted parts of the law just before the 2020 election so that ballots with no postmark and no signature would count as official. This, on top of selective guidance that directed some counties to “cure” their invalid ballots – a questionable privilege that should have, at best, been offered to all 67 counties.

I stand behind legislation introduced in the Senate to repeal no-excuse mail-in voting, mandate signature verification, establish an Elections Commission, expand the number of poll watchers and bolster their protection so that these unsavory practices become relics of the past.”

CONTACT: Doug Zubeck