State Government Resources


Pennsylvania Office of Open Records —The Office of Open Records was created in 2008 by passage of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know law (RTKL). It is an independent quasi-judicial agency authorized to hear and decide appeals from requesters who have been denied access to records by state and local agencies.

 

PennWATCH  The Pennsylvania Web Accountability and Transparency Act was signed into law on June 30, 2011, providing for the establishment of a “searchable budget database-driven Internet website detailing certain information concerning taxpayer expenditures and investments.”

Launched in December 2012, the website provides key data on all three branches of state government, as well as agencies that receive funding through the state budget. Data is updated on a monthly basis, except employee compensation, which is updated annually. Note: agencies are responsible for the accuracy of their data.​

 

Pennsylvania E-Contracts Library — The Right-to-Know Law of 2008 directs the Pennsylvania Treasury to make certain government contract information available for public inspection by posting it on a searchable website. Commonwealth agencies, legislative agencies and judicial agencies must file with Treasury any contract involving any real, personal or mixed property of any kind or description, and any contract for personal services where the consideration involved in the contract is $5,000 or greater. Note: contracts for services that are protected by a privilege, such as the attorney-client privilege, are exempt from the requirement to be filed with Treasury.

 

Senate Records  While the General Assembly is not subject to the same rules as the Commonwealth and local agencies under the Right-to-Know law, under the definition of “Legislative Records” in Section 102 of the law, 19 types of legislative records were made expressly public. In many instances, the records are available online and there is no need to make an official request. The Senate has its own process for making a records request.

 

House Records  While the General Assembly is not subject to the same rules as the Commonwealth and local agencies under the Right-to-Know law, under the definition of “Legislative Records” in Section 102 of the law, 19 types of legislative records were made expressly public. In many instances, the records are available online and there is no need to make an official request. The House has its own process for making a records request.

 

Judicial Records  Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System provides public access to court records online and upon request unless exempted by court order, state law or administrative policy. The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts is currently seeking comments on a proposed public access policy concerning case records of the appellate and trial courts. Comments are due no later than April 8. Watch the PaFOIC website for its comments on this proposed policy.

 

Records Management  The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission is responsible for implementing the Commonwealth’s records management program. Through the Pennsylvania State Archives, the Commission operates (1) the State Records Center, the State Archives and the Records Management program for all Executive Branch agencies; and (2) archival and records management services to county and municipal governments, school districts, and the state judicial system. Note: Under the Right-to-Know law, an agency in possession of a public record must produce it; an agency not in possession of an otherwise public record has no obligation to produce it, making compliance with records retention policies critical for public access.