2010-10-07 / Church News

Pa. Senate Approves Changes To Right-To-Know Law

By Marc Levy

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – A bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate would make numerous changes to the Right-to-Know Law, including one that would allow a local agency to charge a per-page fee to someone reviewing a public record.

The Senate voted unanimously without debate to send the 19-page bill to the House.

The bill has been described by the office of its sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, as an attempt to address procedural problems that have arisen since the Right-to- Know Law’s passage two years ago.

Under the bill, a government agency could charge someone as much as 12 1/2 cents per page – half the allowable per-page fee for photocopying records – to examine a public record that he or she requested.

“It is an attempt to address situations, admittedly rare, where requesters ask for very large records which require significant time for local agencies to compile but do not want copies,’’ an aide to Pileggi, Erik Arneson, said in an e-mail.

Many agencies, he said, have asked the Senate to authorize a “search and retrieval’’ fee for right-to-know requests. However, he said, Pileggi, R-Delaware, doesn’t believe such a fee is appropriate.

The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, which lobbies on open-records issues, does not support the bill.

Another provision in the bill would require county 911 agencies to disclose the times of calls they receive and the locations of the incidents, an issue that is being litigated. It also would give the state Office of Open Records legal standing in appeals of its decisions.

It would force school boards and other bodies to produce more of the material they review at public meetings and specifies that records that exist in a computer format must be released, if requested, in that format.

However, the bill would narrow the law’s applicability to government contractors and volunteer fire companies and similar squads.

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