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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: December 7, 2022 03:40 PM
From: Senator Doug Mastriano
To: All Senate members
Subject: Strengthening the Open Records Law
In the near future, I will reintroduce two pieces of legislation to provide much-needed updates and revisions to Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law (Act 3 of 2008). In prior sessions, these proposed changes have passed the Senate with bipartisan approval.

While the RTK law has increased transparency and accountability at all levels of government, areas for improvement have been revealed since it's implementation. Therefore, I would appreciate your co-sponsorship and support for these updates.

This legislation is supported by the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP), the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS), the Office of Open Records (ORR), and the PA Newmedia Association. 

​Co-sponsors from last session included Senators BAKER, STEFANO, MENSCH, PHILLIPS-HILL and VOGEL.

Document #1

Introduced as SB249

Description: The first bill, previously SB 488, 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.

The 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 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 originally devised in conjunction with these universities.

Document #2

Introduced as SB657

Description: The second bill, previously SB 492, will make improvements in other sections of the law and was devised with the input of the Office of Open Records (OOR) and the PA Newsmedia Association. It will 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, industrial development authorities, and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association are covered by the law.

Addtionally, the legislation will require agencies to maintain all records involved in a Right-to-Know request until the request has been responded to and 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.