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Senate Discusses changes to Right to Know Law

October 22, 2013
HARRISBURG- The state Senate is considering legislation to update Pennsylvania's Right-To-Know law.
The Senate State Government Committee held a hearing to look at proposed changes in the State's five-year old Right-To-Know Law. Senate Bill 444 would update the law, based on problems and complaints by state and local agencies that have had to comply with it. These agencies, especially on the county and local level, complain that they have to deal with thousands of frivolous requests, especially from inmates at state and county prisons. Some of SB 44's updates to deal with these problems:
Create a new fee structure for commercial requests, allowing state and local agencies to charge more for requests from those looking for the data for commercial purposes.
Allow state and local agencies to petition a court for a protective order against unduly burdensome requests.
Create a new section covering inmate access to records, specifying what records inmates may request.
Clarify the law’s application to records related to third-party contractors, ensuring that the contract and any public records of the agency relating to the contract are available.
Also, although SB 444 doesn't directly deal with the question, the hearing focused on applying the Right-To-Know Law to state-related universities. Representatives from the schools said much of their information needed to stay private, but many Senators feel that as long as the universities accept financial help from the state, the state has a right to demand full accounting of how that money is spent.
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