HARRISBURG, PA — Rep. Stephen Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware) said Gov. Tom Wolf can no longer keep Pennsylvania citizens in the dark during the COVID-19 pandemic – a time when information and answers are sorely needed. Last evening, Wolf permitted a key government transparency bill to become law without his signature.
Wolf ordered the closing of state offices in mid-March, telling employees to work from home. In the meantime, the administration had taken the position that the closing of state agencies meant they could ignore Right-to-Know requests until further notice, but the General Assembly thought otherwise.
Both the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, who represent all citizens of this Commonwealth, voted unanimously to pass House Bill 2463, which Barrar co-sponsored.
Now, Act 77 of 2020 prevents the governor from ordering state agencies to ignore requests for public records and information during an emergency declaration or suspending responses unless additional time is necessary.
Under the new law, if a Commonwealth agency fails to respond to a request for records, the requestor can petition Commonwealth Court to compel the agency to respond to the request.
“Act 77 provides legislators, Pennsylvania residents and the news media the answers they need to be informed about the data and retrieval methods the Wolf administration is using in its decision-making during this pandemic,” said Barrar.
“Many of its decisions have come with severe consequences for residents and the many businesses operating in the Commonwealth. It is wrong for government officials to withhold this critical information, especially now. The public has a right to know and the Wolf administration and future administrations must be held accountable.”
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