Right to Know

The Public Has The Right To Know

Open Records Law In 2008 the Pennsylvania Legislature passed a new open records law, dubbed the “Right to Know Law,” to take effect January 1, 2009.

The new law requires that a record in the possession of a state or local agency be presumed to be a public record unless otherwise specified by the law. This shifts the burden of proof from the public to the government, which now must give a compelling reason why a record needs to remain secret – for example, because it would violate the privacy of a government employee by disclosing personal information or because it would compromise the security of a government installation by making public the specifics of its security measures.

The new law also established the Office of Open Records to enforce this law with local agencies and serve as a resource to the public in obtaining public records.

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The Sunshine Act

The current Pennsylvania Open Meetings Act, also called the “Sunshine Act,” was passed in 1987. This law states that the public has a right to be present at all meetings of state agencies at which “agency business” will be discussed or acted upon, that public notice of such meetings must be provided, and that minutes must be taken. Members of the public must be given “reasonable opportunity…to comment on matters of concern, official action or deliberation which are or may be before the board or council prior to taking official action.”

Exceptions to this law are executive sessions in which an agency may privately discuss such things as personnel decisions, labor union negotiations, negotiations prior to the purchase of property, and consultations with legal counsel on current or expected litigation.

For FAQs about the Right to Know Act

please visit the Office of Open Records’ website

Open Records