HARRISBURG – Two bills which will significantly strengthen Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law have been introduced by Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-9), the author of the state’s current law, and Sen. John Blake (D-22), a longtime advocate for increased transparency.
“Since the new Open Records Law was enacted in 2008, the public has been given access to tens of thousands of government documents that were previously unavailable,” Sen. Pileggi said. “My legislation will strengthen the law for both requesters and agencies by simplifying the appeals process for requesters, giving the Office of Open Records much-needed flexibility in addressing complex appeals, and reducing the burden of requests from inmates. I’m pleased to be working with Sen. John Blake on this crucial effort.”
Senate Bill 411 (Pileggi) will also establish a new, reasonable fee structure for commercial requests, ensure that requests made to campus police departments receive the same treatment as requests to municipal police departments, and clarify that entities such as economic development authorities and industrial development authorities are covered by the law.
“It’s important to take up reforms to the Right-to-Know Law in this legislative session,” Sen. Blake said. “I’m glad to continue the work begun in the last session with my friend and colleague, Sen. Dominic Pileggi. Senate Bill 444 was passed unanimously out of the Senate in the last session but, due to time constraints, was not taken up in the House. This update of our Open Records statute is informed by more than six years of experience. Expanding the law’s coverage regarding reporting and transparency for our four state-related universities is essential and long overdue.”
Senate Bill 412 (Blake) will require state-related universities – Penn State, Temple, Pitt, and Lincoln – to create freely accessible online databases which include extensive budget, revenue and expenditure data; the number of employees and aggregated, non-personal employee data; and the number of students and aggregated, non-personal student data.
HARRISBURG, Sept. 24, 2014 – Sen. John Blake today applauded the passage of legislation that would make significant reforms to Pennsylvania’s open records law.
Sen. Blake stewarded the discussions with the four state-related universities – Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln – and crafted the amendment to Senate Bill 444 to bring the schools under enhanced Right to Know disclosure requirements.
If approved by the House and governor, SB 444 would require the state-related universities to publicly disclose and display their top 250 salaries, revenue and expenditure reports, academic and administrative support information, audited financial statements, minutes of any public meeting, information on the expenditure of their non-preferred General Fund appropriations, and detailed information on the goods and services contracts they procure and award. All of this information is required to be posted on-line and must be retained for 20 years.
“This has been many months of work and it has involved six years of learning as the Office of Open Records implemented Pennsylvania’s 2008 Right to Know statute,” Blake said. “The change affecting the state-related universities is an enormous enhancement in disclosures. It assures the public can learn more about how these institutions utilize their significant, annual state appropriations with ease and predictability.”
Blake thanked and commended Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, State Government Committee chairmen Sens. Lloyd Smucker and Matt Smith and their staffs for their work in ensuring Pennsylvania’s Open Records law be strengthened and enhanced to better serve the public interest.
Additionally, Blake urged Gov. Tom Corbett to reappoint Terry Mutchler as the executive director of the Office of Open Records. Mutchler’s term expired this past April.
“Mutchler shepherded the implementation and management of the Office of Open Records in an exemplary way,” Blake said. “She is recognized nationally as a subject-matter expert in the area of public transparency and accountability. There is no individual who is as qualified and deserving for re-appointment to her current post.”
Sen. Blake also urged his colleagues in the House to adopt Senate Bill 444 as swiftly as possible.