This just in from the home of the brand-new Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition:
A state House commission on Tuesday unanimously recommended widening Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law to make most government records, beyond a list of exceptions, available for public inspection.
Pennsylvania law currently defines just two categories of government records as public, making it among the weakest access laws in the country.
"I'm pretty impressed," said Common Cause of Pennsylvania executive director Barry Kauffman after the vote by the Speaker's Legislative Reform Commission. "They've made a very clear statement that we need to make major strides in opening government records to the public."
A proposal to extend the Right-to-Know Law to the Legislature, which is currently exempt, also was unanimously endorsed, although an exception was carved out for "constituent casework" and documents or records related to meetings that do not have to be held in public.
Changing the underlying premise of the law to establish that records are presumed open, not closed — what public-access advocates call the "flip of presumption" — has the support of Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, sponsor of a bill to amend the Right-to-Know Law.
The next question may be which records will be exempt from the law, such as police investigative materials or people's medical records. The reform commission unanimously recommended that the House begin developing such a list from exceptions found in Rendell's records-law proposal and in a bill sponsored by Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Fayette.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
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