HARRISBURG – Legislation that would empower local and state agencies to charge fees when responding to Right-to-Know requests for a commercial purpose was passed by the House of Representatives this week and will next be considered by the Senate, according to Rep. Justin Simmons (R-Lehigh/Montgomery/Northampton), prime sponsor of the bill.
House Bill 283
is intended to balance the importance of the general public’s right to know with the value of preserving the ability of local governments to juggle their many responsibilities and serve their taxpayers. It would also disincentivize private entities from abusing the Right-to-Know process for financial gain.
“The resources of local government offices may be quickly overwhelmed by a large volume of Right-to-Know requests made for profit-seeking purposes,” Simmons said. “When local governments have to dedicate time and energy to fulfilling public records requests from business enterprises, some of which originate from other regions of the Commonwealth or even out-of-state, it is the taxpayer who suffers.”
Simmons’ proposal would require each person who submits a Right-to-Know request to indicate whether their request is being made for a commercial purpose, and permit offices to charge search, review and duplication fees when responding to commercial requests.
The measure clarifies that the fees must be reasonable and cannot be established with the intent or effect of excluding individuals from access to records but should instead deter businesses from using these offices for commercial gain at the taxpayers’ expense.
The bill passed Tuesday with a vote of 177-15.
Representative Justin Simmons
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Michael Plummer