HARRISBURG – Legislation to strengthen Pennsylvania’s Open Records law, sponsored by Senator Pileggi (R-9), was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 411 clarifies and improves the Open Records Law based on experiences and court decisions since the law went into effect in 2008. The bill makes over 30 changes to the law, including limiting inmate access in requesting government records; which, today, make up over 40 percent of the workload of the Office of Open Records (OOR); handling commercial requestors; and, clarifying that volunteer fire companies are not government agencies and should not be treated as such under the law.
“Seven years ago, the General Assembly enacted a completely rewritten Open Records Law for Pennsylvania,” said Senator Pileggi, the author of Act 3 of 2008. “That law provided the public with access to tens of thousands of government documents that would not have been available under the previous law. Senate Bill 411 seeks to improve the Open Records Law by building on what we have learned over the past seven years, responding to decisions by the courts and the Office of Open Records, and with input from both those who request records and the agencies who respond to those requests.”
An amendment added to the bill, sponsored by Senator John Blake (D-22), requires state-related universities to create accessible online databases to include budget, revenue and expense-related information.
“It’s important to take up reforms to the Right-to-Know Law in this legislative session,” Sen. Blake said. Expanding the law’s coverage regarding reporting and transparency for our four state-related universities is essential and long overdue.”
“Senate Bill 411 will improve the Right-to-Know Law for both requesters and agencies,” said Erik Arneson, Executive Director for the Office of Open Records. “I fully support Senator Pileggi’s efforts to provide the most effective and efficient way to make records available to the public. I believe any remaining concerns can be addressed as the bill continues to move through the General Assembly.”
Senate Bill 411 is supported by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records.
The bill now moves to the House for consideration.
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