|Posted:||December 7, 2020 11:24 AM|
|From:||Senator John P. Blake|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Strengthening the Open Records Law|
|I will soon be reintroducing legislation that will provide much-needed updates and revisions to Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law (Act 3 of 2008). These proposed changes have passed the Senate unanimously in previous legislative sessions.
As you know, prior to the 2008 Right-to-Know Law the burden of determining that which is a public record rested with the general public. With Senator Dominic Pileggi’s authorship and Governor Rendell’s signature of this law, the burden was successfully shifted to government offices/agencies and to other publicly funded institutions to determine or to explain why a certain record is not public information.
This was a very positive legislative achievement in Pennsylvania and I commend caucus leaders and members of the General Assembly who supported this necessary change. It evidences a commitment to improved transparency and accountability at all levels of government. However, areas for improvement have been revealed during our ten-year experience with the law. Therefore, I would appreciate your co-sponsorship and support for these updates.
Previous co-sponsors include Senators Fontana, Kim. Ward, Hughes, Haywood, Killion, Mensch, Baker, Tartaglione, Kearney, Muth and Collett.
|Description:||The first bill, previously SB 782, will bring greater transparency to the records of our State-Related Universities (Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln). Specifically, my legislation will significantly increase the amount of university personnel salary information that must be disclosed. The bill will also provide access to budgetary and contract information in user-friendly, searchable online databases. My legislation will not affect existing, statutory exclusions related to privacy or similar legal protections required under law. It is important to note that Pennsylvania is one of only three states in the nation that explicitly exempts such universities from open records provisions – Alaska and Delaware the other two. For most of the nation, state-funded universities’ records are presumed open or have been judicially confirmed as open.
Our institutions of higher learning are powerful engines for the state’s economy. They are world class institutions and we need to ensure they remain so. My measure to expand the extent to which the state-related institutions are subject to the Right-to-Know Law will not undermine key and important elements of their operations or mission and they are not intended to undermine their competitive position or economic impact. There is, however, plenty of room for improvement in the level of transparency and accountability we can expect from these institutions. It is important to note that this legislation was devised in conjunction with these universities and the universities support passage of this legislation.
|Description:||The second bill, previously SB 783, will make improvements in other sections of the law. This legislation was devised with the input of the Office of Open Records (OOR) and the PA Newsmedia Association. Specifically, this bill would: