Bill to record private meetings in Pa. could crack down on agenda changes

    The Pennsylvania lawmaker who wants to require entities such as school boards and city councils to record their private meetings is also angling to make them give advance notice of agenda changes.

    A bill by Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Allegheny, was the subject of a committee hearing but a vote hasn’t been scheduled yet. Saccone said he wants to tweak the bill to require any agenda changes be made with some advance notice to the public. At this point, he’s thinking 24 or 48 hours might work.

    “People put things on the agenda at the last minute without informing the public,” Saccone said, “Why would the public come if they don’t know what’s going to be talked about that night, or if someone’s going to slip something in at the end that they want to get through?”

    The measure would require state and local agencies and boards to keep recordings of their closed-door “executive sessions” for one year – not for dissemination, but for reference by judges called in to settle any challenges about whether closed-door meetings should have been public. The bill adds some specifications to those rules, too.

    At a recent hearing, one critic pointed out that the law Saccone is trying to change doesn’t apply to the General Assembly. Caucus meetings would remain shrouded. But Saccone said that shouldn’t sink his bill.

    “If somebody wants to put in a bill – it might even be me later – to try to get the General Assembly to vote itself not to be exempted from this, that’s a separate issue,” Saccone said. “It’ll be a much harder row to hoe. I’m trying to fix what’s in the current law before I try to institute some other change or new law.”

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