Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The GOP Claims to Like a Tan. But They Might Prefer a Fake One from a Bottle.

Mixed news today on the move to bring sunshine to Old Main. First, the good news. The State Senate GOP leader Dominic Pileggi,of Delaware County,has come out in favor of a new open record law and he wants the law to cover Penn State.

Speaking at a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg, Pileggi said Senate Republicans plan to introduce legislation within a month that would make several changes to the Right-to-Know Law.

One major change would be exposing legislative spending, which could reach about $341 million this year, to the state's open-records law.

While the House and Senate have released receipts of spending by individual legislators, the chambers are under no legal obligation to do so. Sometimes they restrict documents from being photocopied or take months to fulfill records requests, and little is available on the Internet.

"I'm going to make what I hope will be a compelling argument that there's nothing to hide there and we should make them available," Pileggi told reporters after the event. "I don't know any reason that they couldn't be available."


Some of the proposed changes Pileggi expects include reducing government response times to requests for records from 10 days to five days and allowing records requests to be submitted by e-mail.

Pileggi, the former Chester mayor who is in his first weeks as the Senate's majority leader, said he also expects the legislation to cover Pennsylvania's four state-related universities -- which include Penn State -- and make it clear that current law applies to the state's student loan agency.

Now here is the bad news.

Pileggi said, however, that he would not favor broadening the definition of a public record, criticized by open-records advocates as too narrow. They also say it puts the onus on the person requesting the record to show that it should be public, rather than forcing the government to prove that it should not be public.

We must work to make sure that a strong open record law is passed. It would be rather meaningless if Penn State is explicitly covered by a law which doesn't assure access to very much.

We won't know for sure where this is going until bills are actually introduced in the Assembly and Senate. I'll let you know when that happens.

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