Public Records

After nearly two decades of work by Common Cause Pennsylvania, in 2008 Pennsylvania rose from having one of the weakest "public records" law in the nation, to having one that is considered a model law in many respects.

However, the law still has significant room for improvement. Common Cause Pennsylvania is working to upgrade the law by:

  • Bringing the General Assembly under full coverage of the law
  • Bringing state-related universities such as Penn State under the law's coverage (just like the state university system)
  • Restricting use of the "non-criminal investigation" exemption --basic research and studies conducted by government agencies shouldnotbe entitled to protection under this exemption
  • Restricting the of the exemption for documents related to pre-decisional deliberation, since these documents can help the public understand the range and nature of options in play during the governmental decision-making process
  • Tightening up on agencies' proclivity toward automatically using the 30 day extension provision instead of providing records within the 5 day deadline when that is readily achievable
  • Scaling penalties to an agency's resources(a $1,500 penalty for a small township may be a big deal, but it is nothing for an agency like PennDOT or city of Philadelphia)
  • Requiring expedited processing for records related to immediately pending government actions, so that citizens can effectively prepare for government meetings.

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