HARRISBURG – For the first time in the 14 years since Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know (RTK) Law was enacted, it could soon receive much-need updates after the House State Government Committee advanced House Bill 2524
by Rep. Lou Schmitt (R-Blair).
“After 14 months of researching and reviewing the current RTK Law and seeking updates to it, I am proud to see it advancing through the legislative process today,” Schmitt said. “The bill addresses numerous issues that arose since the law was first enacted. I believe this bill provides the modernization needed to ensure the public has access to information while also protecting vital information of government agencies and its employees.”
House Bill 2524 would provide numerous needed updates to the Right-to-Know Law, such as requiring agencies to register open records officer contact information with the state’s Office of Open Records; permitting agencies to ask requesters whether records will be used for commercial purposes; a new penalty for false certification relating to commercial requests; additional privacy and public safety clarifications; updates to comply with recent court rulings; and permission to assess reasonable, standard fees for commercial requests, with an exception for media requests.
Specifically, the bill calls for the Office of Open Records to provide online training throughout the year. It also clarifies the current law so that local agencies subject to RTK requests include economic or industrial development authorities and police departments of a state-owned or state-related university. The bill also states that volunteer ambulance, fire and rescue services are not subject to the law. However, records of the organizations when contracting with a state or local agency to provide governmental functions are public record.
The legislation provide clarification to the existing RTK Law that employees’ personal identification information includes employees’ immediate family members’ names, and the number, names and ages of an employee’s dependents. It also states that that an agency’s financial institution account numbers, routing numbers, credit card numbers, personal identification numbers and passwords are not public information.
“Guaranteeing residents have access to public records, whether it be that of a school board, municipality or state government, while also protecting employees’ private information is a balancing act,” Schmitt said. “This bill accomplishes that, and I look forward to it advancing through the General Assembly.”
House Bill 2524 now goes to the full House for consideration.
Representative Lou Schmitt
79th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross