Pennsylvania Debates “Open” Records Bill

Pennsylvania Debates “Open” Records Bill

Pennsylvanians are debating a public records law that could make their state the least transparent in the country.HB 443 is an apparent attempt to bring public records law up-to-date, especially with respect to electronic records. This much-amended bill doesn’t, as some have reported, close all records with birth dates...

Pennsylvanians are debating a public records law that could make their state the least transparent in the country.

HB 443 is an apparent attempt to bring public records law up-to-date, especially with respect to electronic records. This much-amended bill doesn’t, as some have reported, close all records with birth dates and addresses. Section 307, which lists records “deemed inaccessible,” makes an exception for personal information of deceased individuals:

“The exemption under this paragraph relating to the disclosure of an individual’s home address shall not apply to … any former address of a deceased person. The exemption under this paragraph relating to the disclosure of an individual’s birth date shall not apply to the birth date of a deceased person.”

Read the full text of the law on the Pennsylvania legislature Web site.

Currently, Pennsylvania vital records from the past 100 years, stored at the Division of Vital Records, are off limits to all but immediate family. You can request birth and death records prior to 1906 from the county where the event was recorded.

But open-records advocates are denouncing HB 443 provisions that close much government agency correspondence and all government e-mail. That would make Pennsylvania the only state in the nation to take such a step. Other states are either explicitly opening e-mailed correspondence or they don’t distinguish between electronic and paper records.

You can read more about this debate on PassOpenRecords.org.

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  1. There was a space at the end of the link, which I’ve removed, so it works now. Thanks for letting me know. A hint for when you want to visit a Web site, but the link you have isn’t working: Try doing a Google search.