Pa. lawmakers consider tweaking open government records law

    The head of Pennsylvania’s open records agency is urging lawmakers to proceed with caution as they consider changes to the measure that created the office.

     

    The 5-year-old Right-to-Know law could be in for some major tweaks.

    Office of Open Records Director Terry Mutchler says she’s concerned that the approach taken by the House could compromise Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know law in the spirit of improving it.

    “You’ve created a very good law,” she said. “Yes, there are areas that need to be fixed, and we share that view, but I also think that we have to remember that we don’t want to roll the clock back and put Pennsylvania back to when it was in the bottom of the barrel and we want to take advantage of making sure that we refine this without gutting it.”

    While the Senate is working on a single piece of legislation to address problems with the open records, the House is juggling at least 10 different proposals.

    Some are of particular concern to Mutchler because they attempt to deny certain populations access to records, or exempt certain information from public requests.

    “While the intent is good, I have some concerns with the results,” she said. “For example, there’s a bill that would absolutely just flat out restrict an inmate’s use of obtaining information.”

    Mutchler says there is an obvious problem with the number and type of records requests received from prison inmates, but denying them the ability to file such requests probably would not stand up to a constitutional challenge.

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