Proposed Legislation on Access

More than 6,000 bills are introduced during each two-year legislative session. Inevitably, many of these have an impact – expressly or as a practical matter – on your right to know. Some are actual Right-to-Know amendments.

The National Freedom of Information Coalition has built an automatic bill tracker designed to find and track new legislation affecting open government in each state, including Pennsylvania.  You can find it here.

The PaFOIC is not a lobbying organization but engages instead in public outreach and education. In addition, we are frequently asked to testify before the General Assembly about the impact that a particular bill may have on citizens’ rights to access their government.

The PaFOIC and its members and directors maintain open and positive relationships with legislators, state agency officials, the judiciary and local agency personnel in an effort to continually educate about the need for transparency in government.

Senate Bill 411

Amends the Right-to-Know Law to further provide for definitions and fee schedules for commercial requests for right-to-know requests. The bill increases the list of exceptions to include certain volunteer emergency response organizations and provides specific items that may be requested by inmates. The legislation also details what records are public and nonpublic, particularly noting that certain agency information such as bank account and routing numbers and other enumerated banking and employer tax information is nonpublic and certain safety inspection reports are public documents requestable under the law. The bill ensures that campus police departments are treated like local police departments under the law and requires the information to be provided in the format in which it is stored if stored in a specific computer file. The bill would allow agencies to request prepayment of record duplication if the costs would exceed $50. The legislation also provides for various appeal processes and procedures while making editorial changes. Effective in 60 days.

Senate Bill 412

Amends the Right-to-Know Law increasing the amount of personnel salary information that must be provided by State-related institutions in their filing required by section 1502 of the Act. A State-related institution with 2,500 employees or more shall file the highest 200 salaries paid to employees of the institutions that are not officers and directors of the institution. For State-related institutions with fewer than 2,500 employees, the institution shall continue to provide the highest 25 salaries paid to the employees of the institution that are officers and directors. The salaries of faculty members shall be presented in salary ranges. Also provides for the disclosure of certain budgetary and contract information. The new section relating to contracts shall take effect in 60 days and the remainder shall take effect immediately.

House Bill 118

Amends the Right-to-Know Law exempting from public records the home address of an individual employed by a public school district. This does not preclude the release of the name, position, salary, actual compensation or other payments or expenses, employment contract, employment-related contract or agreement and length of service of a public official or an agency employee. Effective in 60 days.

House Bill 130

Amends Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses), in firearms and other dangerous articles, establishing the offense of unlawful firearm records; and prescribing a penalty. No State governmental agency or political subdivision or official, agent or employee thereof or any other person, public or private, may knowingly and willfully keep or cause to be kept any list, database, record or registry of privately owned firearms or any list, database, record or registry of the owners of those firearms. The bill provides for exceptions. Effective in 60 days.

House Bill 318

Amends the Right-to-Know Law, in preliminary provisions, defining “commercial purpose”; in procedure, requiring written requests to include a statement relating to commercial purpose; and, in judicial review, further providing for fee limitations adding that additional reasonable standard fees for the search and review of records may be assessed when records are requested for a commercial purpose. Effective in 60 days.