HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) – The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed three amendments to House Bill 573 on Nov. 18.

House Bill 573 was written to amend the act of April 9, 1929, better known as The Administrative Code of 1929, by providing further information on departmental reports and record retentions, specifically regarding records relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representative Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland) and Rep. Robert Mercuri (R-Allegheny) both sponsored amendments which passed on unanimous roll calls.

Rep. Ecker’s amendment, A01695, added provisions to the bill by creating an article focused on disaster emergency record retention. This amendment requires executive agencies to preserve all records in possession of the agency relating to their response to a disaster emergency subject to a disaster emergency declaration in accordance with the agency’s current existing record retention policy.

Rep. Mercuri’s amendment, A01690, makes provisions to an already existing section of the bill relating to departmental reports. Section 504 of House Bill 573 in its current state would require the head of each administrative department and each independent administrative board and commission to give the governor written reports concerning the condition, management and financial transactions of the department, board or commission on a biannual basis. These reports must also contain an assessment of the weaknesses and risks within each administrative department.

A01690 aims to add a provision to this section that will require these reports to include a review of information technology exposure to any applications or services owned in whole or in part by foreign companies that have close relationships to foreign countries. Rep. Mercuri is hoping that this amendment would strengthen protections to avoid technology threats to state agencies. The amendment does not address any potential technology threats or require a risk assessment of American owned applications and services.

Rep. Jessica Benham (D-Allegheny) sponsored A02590, an amendment also geared at Section 504. This amendment aims to exclude the Office of Attorney General, Department of the Auditor General and Treasury Department from being required to generate these written reports.

A02590 will also add provisions to the section that will deem these reports, and any documents, materials, information or copies included in the report, privelaged and give them confidential treatment. This means that these reports will not be subject to discovery or admissible as evidence in civil action or considered public record under the “Right-to-Know Law.”

The reports, however, can be made public by the administrative department barring written approval from the governor.

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This amendment passed in a 102-101 vote, seeing a largely Republican opposition.

The bill is now awaiting action by the House Appropriations Committee.