The state senate votes today on a new open records law. Pennsylvania has one of the weakest laws in the country in terms of access to public records. Local governments routinely deny access to documents citizens have a right to see and inspect and the penalties are so weak they do this with impunity. It isn't only local governments however. The House Democratic caucus at first denied access to the political polling done with your money.
In Pennsylvania all records are presumed to be private unless the law specifically says they are public. This is anti-democratic because it secretes too much important information behind closed doors. Secrecy always leads to corruption, mismanagement, and waste.
The bill introduced by Dominic Pileggi reverses the presumption. It says all state records are presumed to be public unless the legislature has specified the remain private:
"There are still 28 categories of information that wouldn't be released, such as information on homeland security, national defense, computer hardware or software, a person's Social Security number and medical information, a company's trade secrets, autopsy reports, criminal investigative information and others."
There are legitimate reasons for these records to remain private. Everything else should be in the public domain. That includes the state legislature, which is exempt under this bill, a major failure of the legislation. After all the abuses we've witnessed the past two and a half years the legislature's records should be the first ones to be made public. Gov. Rendell should veto any bill which isn't complete. The only way the house and senate will comply will be if he forces them.