News_from_HarrisburgUpdated_NCPA_2020

Harrisburg, Pa. -- Despite opposing a bill he rebuked as "foolish" and "thoughtless," Governor Tom Wolf let House Bill 2463 become law without his signature on Sunday. The bill passed unanimously in the state house and senate earlier this month.

The bill would require state agencies to respond to RTK requests with procedures established by the Office of Open Records even if the agency's physical location has been closed due to an emergency.

Governor Wolf initially vocalized an intention to veto the bill, stating he believed it did not contain enough safety precautions for the health and safety of employees. In response, state legislators vocalized their disagreements. 

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On July 26, Governor Wolf announced he will allow HB 2463 to pass without his signature. 

State Representatives have already voiced their enthusiasm of the bill's passage.

“House Bill 2463 has a simple goal: To ensure the public has a route to hold its government accountable, even in times when a state of emergency declaration has been declared. A crisis is no reason for elected officials to ignore questions from the public" said Representative Seth Grove (R-Dover). 

"This bill becoming law could not have happened without the support of all those who raised their voices in defense of an open government and the freedom of the press. I am eternally grateful for the support this law received."

In addition to allowing the bill to pass, Governor Wolf released a statement outlining his reservations about the bill and his thoughts regarding right-to-know and transparency in Government. 

He explained that the Office of Open Records has taken some steps to install safety measures for their employees. 

"While I am still very concerned about the ill-conceived and poorly drafted legislation as it pertains to protections for critical security and infrastructure during an emergency, I am going to err on the side of transparency, as I have done throughout my term, and let this bill become law," stated the Governor. 

The Governor referred to the legislation as "thoughtless and foolish" and  mentioned that records requests have been processed throughout the pandemic.

“To be clear, commonwealth agencies are processing records requests and have been doing so for months. Responses were sent on all pending or received record requests. In fact, as this bill made its way through the legislative process, offices had re-opened and requests were being processed long before this bill came to my desk," he said. 

The Governor's statement also mentioned how members of the state legislature have "exempted themselves from any meaningful right-to-know process" and advocated for the legislators to be subjected to the same right-to-know inquiries as businesses and other branches of government. 

"They have created a category of legislative privilege allowing them to block the release of almost all information, including basic information such as correspondence and calendars, not to mention any emails that outline their often-flawed decision-making processes" he explained.

“I will let this bill become law, but it is time for the Republican legislature to hold themselves accountable for their intentional lack of transparency, their failures throughout this pandemic, and their response that has repeatedly endangered employees and citizens in Pennsylvania," concluded Governor Wolf.

“It’s time for accountability and reform, and that is what we should all expect and demand.”


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