July 27, 2020
Over the weekend, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that he would allow Right-to-Know legislation become law that had received unanimous approval by the General Assembly.
House Bill 2463 requires that state agencies establish a fair process for answering right-to-know requests, even if their physical locations are closed due to COVID-19 or any other future emergency. This process aims to help ensure government transparency, even in the midst of a crisis. The governor had announced last week that he planned to veto the bill, saying that it made no allowances for the health and safety of Commonwealth employees who may need to access physical offices to process RTK requests; and also that it could potentially expose non-public information.
The veto threat lead lawmakers to urge the governor to sign the bill, with bill sponsor Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, responding to the governor’s concerns about having to physically appear in the office by saying that “State government has successfully demonstrated its portability during the COVID-19 pandemic … With today’s technology, RTK requests can be asked and answered quickly and flawlessly without exposing confidential information.”
In a press release announcing his decision to let the bill become law without his signature, the governor clarified that Commonwealth agencies have been responding to RTK requests for several months. He expressed that though he continues to have reservations about the legislation, he was choosing to “err on the side of transparency” and allow it to be enacted.
Had the governor vetoed the bill, it would have been the first time since 1978 that a governor would have vetoed legislation that had earned unanimous approval by the General Assembly.
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