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PRINTER'S NO. 699
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
SENATE BILL
No.
525
Session of
2023
INTRODUCED BY DUSH, BROOKS, CULVER AND LAUGHLIN, MAY 3, 2023
REFERRED TO STATE GOVERNMENT, MAY 3, 2023
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) Petition.--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).
(2) Be provided to the Office of Open Records and the
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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 or a designee shall:
(1) Within five business days, notify the requester
alleged to be a vexatious requester that the requester may,
within 10 business days, file a preliminary response to the
petition.
(2) Within 15 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.
(c) Initial finding.--The executive director of the Office
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of Open Records or a designee 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 or a designee determines
that further proceedings are not warranted, the executive
director or a designee 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 or a designee determines
that further proceedings are warranted, the executive
director or a designee 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 of the Office of Open Records or a designee shall
determine whether a hearing is warranted. The executive director
or a designee shall notify the parties of the determination. A
decision to hold or not hold a hearing is not appealable. The
executive director or a designee may admit into evidence
testimony, evidence and documents that the executive director or
a designee believes to be reasonably probative and relevant. The
executive director or a designee 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 of the Office of Open Records or
a designee 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
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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 of the Office of
Open Records or a designee shall issue a final opinion either
granting or denying the petition within 90 calendar days of the
petition's filing. Upon a grant of the petition, the executive
director or a designee may provide appropriate relief
commensurate with the vexatious conduct, including 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), a 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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