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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Latest from PA...

A bill expanding the public's access to government records in Pennsylvania sailed through the state Senate today, although advocates said it could leave the legislature itself shrouded in secrecy.

The 48-1 vote in favor of Senate Bill 1 sets up a potential conflict with a new House version of open-records legislation that, advocates say, is stronger in some respects.

Like the House bill, which was approved by a committee today, the Senate measure would flip a key aspect of current law on its head by declaring that government records are presumed public unless they fall under 28 specific exemptions.

But the Senate bill does not extend the same presumption of openness to the legislature itself, advocates said.

"Neither of them are A-list bills at this point. They're still flawed," said Barry L. Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania. But, he said, "I keep hoping - always an optimist - that we'll get a bill that other states look at as the model."

The Senate bill's sponsor, Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R., Delaware), disputed criticism that it does not go far enough. He said it was as strong as open-records laws in many other states.

"Reform may very well have been the word uttered most often in this building over the past year," Pileggi said during floor debate. "There is no other reform that comes close to matching the impact of a strong open-records law."

More here.

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