Burns’ open records bill passes key vote in state House committee

“Increasing government transparency should be an ongoing endeavor – not an effort that stops with my bill"

HARRISBURG, April 14 – With his bill to update the state open records law quickly receiving a key vote in a state House committee, state Rep. Frank Burns is pointing to the bill’s bipartisan support and fast-tracking as a sign that his fellow legislators recognize the value of his bill, and the impact it could have for public transparency.

“As lawmakers we are routinely forced to make decisions that affect people across Pennsylvania, and it is our job to make the most informed decisions possible on behalf of the people we represent,” Burns said. “My bill simply shortens the timeline an agency has to provide public information to lawmakers; therefore, this change would benefit all Pennsylvanians.”

Burns’ bill (HB 2471) would require government entities to respond more quickly to open records requests from public officials who need information in the course of their official duties. Government agencies would be required to provide a final answer on the records request within five days, eliminating a 30-day extension permitted under current law.

If the agency denies the request, an elected official could appeal to the state Office of Open Records. To support the OOR in handling these requests, the bill would also create a dedicated appeals officer position within the office specifically to handle appeals from elected officials.

The bill would not change what information is considered public in Pennsylvania and would not affect individuals who use the law to access public documents. Burns has been a champion of public records since taking office, taking his fight for transparency and open government all the way to the state Supreme Court.

“Increasing government transparency should be an ongoing endeavor – not an effort that stops with my bill,” Burns said. “We should be continuing to improve the ease of access to information and creating a culture of openness like many other states.”

Having been voted out of the House State Government Committee on Wednesday, Burns’ bill now heads to the state House for a general consideration.