HARRISBURG – Returning to founding principles of the United States and Pennsylvania, legislation introduced by Rep. Seth Grove (R-Dover) and approved by the House State Government Committee to require state agencies to answers questions posed by the public, including members of the media.
“The press is essential for democracy as it keeps government in check while providing information to citizens. As such, one of its main jobs is to question government officials,” Grove said. “Since the pandemic hit the Commonwealth, state agencies have not been responding to questions posed by the press and citizens throughs right-to-know (RTK)requests. This is simply unacceptable.”
To right this wrong, the House State Government Committee moved House Bill 2463
to require state agencies to begin responding to RTK requests. Under the bill, if an agency has been forced to close its physical location, it must follow procedures established by the nonpartisan Office of Open Records (OOR). These procedures take into consideration the difficulties faced by Commonwealth agencies due to COVID-19 and any potential future emergency declarations and establish fair policies for responding to an RTK request.
Should an agency fail to follow the policies established by OOR, a requestor may petition the Commonwealth Court to compel a response. The court’s decision would not force an agency to approve the request for documents as the exceptions provided by the RTK law would still apply. However, these exceptions would not apply to decisions made by an agency related to a disaster declaration or how an agency determined it would collect the data used to make those decisions.
Lastly, House Bill 2463 will designate any data or process for data collection to be under the RTK process to ensure the data being used to make decisions under an emergency declaration are publicly disclosed.
“The administration’s response to the pandemic has been opaque at best and raised a lot of questions, too many of which have gone unanswered by agencies under the governor’s purview,” Grove said. “This is unacceptable and skews our system of checks and balances. This bill would restore transparency to state government which is critical during a disaster declaration”
House Bill 2463 now goes the full House for consideration.
Representative Seth Grove
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Greg Gross