Senate approves changes to open records law, House yet to vote

Legislation to improve and clarify Pennsylvania’s Open Records Law passed unanimously in the Senate on Wednesday.

“I believe our open records law is one of the best in the nation, and this bill makes a number of important and needed changes to improve upon our nationally recognized model,” state Sen. Jake Corman, R- Benner Township, said in a news release.

The amended bill makes changes to the law, establishes the Office of Open Records as an independent agency, creates a new fee structure for commercial requests, clarifies the news media’s exemption from the commercial request provision, creates a new section to address record requests made by inmates, clarifies the law’s application to the PIAA and adds records of volunteer emergency providers to the list of exceptions.

“The bill makes a number of important changes that have been well vetted and discussed since the act’s inception,” Corman said.

The bill requires Penn State and the three other state-related universities — Temple, Pittsburgh and Lincoln universities — to create searchable, sortable and downloadable databases on their freely accessible public websites with budget, revenue and expenditure data, the number of employees and non-personal employee data and the number of students and non-personal student data.

“Providing easy online access to detailed budget and academic information for our state-related universities is an innovative addition to the act and will improve how the public can view the important impact public support has at these institutions,” Corman said.

The bill now goes to the House for approval. If approved without amendments, it would proceed to the governor to be signed into law. If amendments are made before House approval, it would return for the Senate’s re-approval.