Right-to-Know at Penn State University – House Bill 61

(From Matt Dahlhausen)

Brief History of Right to Know Law

In 2008, Pennsylvania passed the Right to Know Law, providing citizens, media and government officials the right to access any public records.  The law covers any physical documents or other such records that document a transaction or activity of an agency.

You can find out more about the Right to Know Law here.

When it was originally passed, an exemption was given for “State related” institutions: Temple University, The University of Pittsburgh, The Pennsylvania State University, and Lincoln University.

This exemption limited the disclosure requirements to tax documentation, salaries of the office and directors, the highest 25 salaries paid to employees.

Pending House Bill 61

Recently, local state representative Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) has sponsored legislation, House Bill 61, to remove the exemption for state-related institutions.

Rep. Benninghoff states:

“…Interestingly, and in contrast to the broad exemption afforded to records of state-related institutions, records of the Commonwealth’s state-owned universities are presumed to be public records.  Both types of institutions are supported by taxpayer dollars.  Thus, I do not understand why the standard that applies to Millersville, Shippensburg, Indiana or West Chester universities should not apply to Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln.

It is disturbing to think what we and the public could have known about the revelations at Penn State if the Right to Know Law had offered greater access to that institution’s records.  For this reason and others, I intend to introduce legislation that will amend the Right to Know Law to apply the access requirements currently imposed on state-owned universities to state-related institutions.   Under my bill, records of state-related institutions will be presumed to be public records and treated in a manner similar to the records of many other state and local agencies.”

On April 22, 2013, HB 61 was approved by the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee, and will now be considered in the State House.

The Right to Know Law has been instrumental in gaining access to communication between the Borough of State College, Columbia Gas, and Penn State.  HB 61 will allow further transparency of the pipeline project from Penn State.

Please consider supporting this legislation by contacting your local representative.

  • House District 171 – Kerry Benninghoff
  • House District 77 – Scott Conklin
  • House District 76 – Mike Hanna
  • Senate District 34 – Jake Corman
  • Senate District 35 – John N. Wozniak
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