by Rep. Dan Moul (R-Adams)
After months of keeping Pennsylvania citizens in the dark during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when information and answers are sorely needed, Gov. Tom Wolf reluctantly allowed a bill that will force his administration to be transparent to become law without his signature.
Wolf ordered the closing of state offices in mid-March, telling state 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 (RTK) requests until further notice, but the General Assembly strenuously disagreed.
Both the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, who represent all citizens of this Commonwealth, voted unanimously to pass House Bill 2463
, which I co-sponsored. The bill 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 bill, 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.
House Bill 2463 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 the pandemic. Many of its decisions have come with dire consequences for residents and the many businesses operating in the Commonwealth.
While Wolf was quoted as saying he, too, would have voted for the bill if he were a legislator, he said he would veto it, but as the veto deadline neared, Wolf grudgingly decided to let the bill become law without his signature.
I am happy that our persistence paid off and transparency prevailed. It is wrong for government officials to withhold this critical information, especially now. The public has a right to know and the Wolf administration has an obligation to comply with these requests.
Representative Dan Moul
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Donna Pinkham