Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Open Records Bill Signed by Govenor Rendell

On February 14, Govenor Rendell signed Senate Bill1 which the Pennsylvania Senate had unanimously approved. The law makes some major revisions to the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law. Parts of the new law are immediately effective, such as the change in definitions. Included in these are new definitions for what is a "record." Other parts of the law will go into effect July 1, 2008 and the rest on January 1, 2009.

Some of the other highlights of the new law are:

- reverses the presumption and now puts the burden of proof on the government agency denying the access request

- establishes the Office of Open Records, housed in the Department of Community and Economic Development; this office will establish standard fees for photocopies and standard records request forms

-provides a list of 29 exceptions for executive agencies and local agencies, including criminal investigations, Social Security numbers, personal financial information, and individual medical records

-increases the fines for officials who violate the law and allows the awarding of legal fees for bad faith actions by government officials

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