EBENSBURG, Pa (WTAJ) — State Representative Frank Burns (D-Cambria) introduced new legislation that would strengthen open record laws.
In the bill, government entities will be required to provide an elected official who files an open records request within 5 days, which would eliminate the 30-day extension currently permitted.
If a request is denied, an elected official could then appeal to the state Office of Open Records, which would also have five days to rule on the case, down from 30 days. To help the Office of Open Records in hitting the five-day deadline, the bill will create a dedicated appeals officer position within the office to handle appeals.
“Whether it’s the Liquor Control Board hiding information from the public, or any other public body making backroom deals that could impact taxpayers, I am a firm believer that decisions and information that affect the public need to be accessible to the public,” Burns said. “I’ve carried that fight all the way to the state Supreme Court, and this legislation would ensure that elected officials have information – and timely access to information – they need to make the right decisions.”
Under the proposed bill, no changes would come to what information is considered public in Pennsylvania and also will not affect individuals who use the law to access public documents.
Burns has used the states’ right-to-know law to gain access to information in the past, notably a two-year-long attempt for information from the Liquor Control Board. Additionally, state Rep. Frank Ryan, a Republican from Lebanon County filed an open records request seeking data related to the state’s COVID-19 mitigation plans that was denied by the state Department of Health and later appealed to the Commonwealth Court.