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PRINTER'S NO. 1576
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE BILL
No.
1457
Session of
2021
INTRODUCED BY TOPPER, SCHLEGEL CULVER, ECKER, FREEMAN, HERSHEY,
JOZWIAK, MILLARD, NEILSON, ROAE, ROWE, SANCHEZ AND WHEELAND,
MAY 20, 2021
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON STATE GOVERNMENT, MAY 20, 2021
AN ACT
Amending the act of February 14, 2008 (P.L.6, No.3), entitled
"An act providing for access to public information, for a
designated open-records officer in each Commonwealth agency,
local agency, judicial agency and legislative agency, for
procedure, for appeal of agency determination, for judicial
review and for the Office of Open Records; imposing
penalties; providing for reporting by State-related
institutions; requiring the posting of certain State contract
information on the Internet; and making related repeals," in
agency response, providing for vexatious requester.
The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
hereby enacts as follows:
Section 1. The act of February 14, 2008 (P.L.6, No.3), known
as the Right-to-Know Law, is amended by adding a section to
read:
Section 906. Vexatious requester.
(a) General rule.--An agency may petition the Office of Open
Records for relief from an individual that the agency alleges is
a vexatious requester. The petition shall:
(1) Be submitted under penalty of 18 Pa.C.S. ยง 4904
(relating to unsworn falsification to authorities).
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(2) Be provided to the Office of Open Records and the
requester alleged to be a vexatious requester.
(3) Detail the conduct by the individual which the
agency alleges demonstrates vexatiousness, including, as
appropriate:
(i) The number of requests filed.
(ii) The total number of pending requests.
(iii) The scope of the requests.
(iv) The nature, content, language or subject matter
of the requests.
(v) The nature, content, language or subject matter
of other oral and written communications to the agency.
(vi) Conduct the agency alleges is placing an
unreasonable burden on the agency.
(vii) Conduct the agency alleges is intended to
harass the agency.
(viii) Any other relevant information.
(b) Processing requests.--Upon receipt of a petition under
subsection (a), the executive director of the Office of Open
Records shall:
(1) Within three business days, notify the requester
alleged to be a vexatious requester that the requester may,
within five business days, file a preliminary response to the
petition.
(2) Within 10 business days, inform the agency whether
pending requests and new requests from the requester alleged
to be a vexatious requester should continue to be processed
or should be stayed pending resolution of the proceedings
under this section. A decision under this paragraph is not
appealable.
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(c) Initial finding.--The executive director shall, within
30 calendar days after receiving a petition under subsection
(a), review the petition and determine whether further
proceedings are warranted. The following shall apply:
(1) If the executive director determines that further
proceedings are not warranted, the executive director shall
deny the petition. The denial shall be in writing and include
an explanation of the reasons for the denial.
(2) If the executive director determines that further
proceedings are warranted, the executive director shall
establish a briefing schedule to provide a fair opportunity
for the requester to respond to the agency ' s petition.
(d) Hearing determination.--After reviewing the requester's
response to the agency's petition, if any, the executive
director shall determine whether a hearing is warranted. The
executive director shall notify the parties of the
determination. A decision to hold or not hold a hearing is not
appealable. The executive director may admit into evidence
testimony, evidence and documents that the executive director
believes to be reasonably probative and relevant. The executive
director may limit the nature and extent of evidence found to be
cumulative.
(e) Mediation.--At any time during proceedings under this
section, the executive director may recommend that both parties
participate in mediation conducted by the Office of Open
Records. If both parties agree, the mediation shall last for a
period of up to 90 calendar days and may be extended with the
agreement of both parties. During the mediation, any other
proceedings under this section shall be stayed.
(f) Final opinion.--The executive director shall issue a
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final opinion either granting or denying the petition within 90
calendar days of its filing. Upon a grant of the petition, the
executive director may provide appropriate relief commensurate
with the vexatious conduct, including, but not limited to, an
order that the agency need not comply with future requests from
the vexatious requester for a specified period of time, but not
to exceed one year. The final opinion shall be posted on the
Office of Open Record's publicly accessible Internet website.
(g) Appeal to Commonwealth Court.--Except for a decision
under subsection (b) or (d), any party aggrieved by a decision
made under this section may appeal the decision to Commonwealth
Court within 15 calendar days.
Section 2. This act shall take effect in 60 days.
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