New Senate bill passes with little to no fanfare
We will soon observe the second anniversary of the passage of one of the worst pieces of legislation in Pennsylvania history; Act 77 “Election Reform”.
To celebrate the passage of this disaster, the PA Senate has, without much consideration or any fanfare, passed an equally horrible bill called SB552; that’s a law that amends the 2008 “Right to Know Law,” making it more difficult for citizens to request information about government operations, including those relating to contracts.
A reading of the bill (text here) quickly reveals that state agencies will have extraordinary power to either shut down or delay the release of public information to anyone they deem to be a “vexatious requester.”
So, what exactly is a vexatious requester?
Well, the definition is also up to the state agency from which the information is being requested; and it can be based on numerous factors, including the number of requests the individual has filed; the nature of the information requested; the number of pending requests for the information; the language contained in the request; or if the agency feels that complying with the request is an “unreasonable burden”, among other factors.
Oh yes, at the end of the list of factors the agency may cite to avoid complying with the Right to Know Request is this:
“Any other relevant information,” which could be the requester’s hair color or shoe size, I suppose.
A horrible piece of legislation
This horrible piece of legislation is a textbook example of everything that people find repugnant about government and the politicians who run it:
- the incompetence,
- the desire for secrecy,
- the unaccountability, and
- the outright dishonesty.
It is also a prime example of what our politicians do when they think we aren’t watching them.
The bill passed with overwhelming senate support; and that’s even more shocking than its content. That includes the votes of Franklin County’s two senators, Douglas Mastriano and Judy Ward.
It’s not too late to stop the bill.
SB 552 now goes to the PA House Government Operations Committee. Franklin County’s Paul Schemel is a member of that committee; so those of you in PA 90 need to reach out to him. Let him know you oppose this legislation.
Why support this bill?
Seriously, there are only four possible reasons that any senator would support this bill:
- The senator didn’t read the bill
- The senator voted for the bill because leadership told them to.
- He/she thinks agencies should have the power to decide whether a citizen is entitled to public information.
- The senator believes any government entity will exercise due diligence with power given to them.
Any of the above are adequate grounds to vote out the bill’s supporter the next time they are up for election in a primary. They are either too naïve, too ignorant or too jaded to be given the public trust
You would think with the memory of the disastrous passage of Act 77 fresh in everyone’s mind, they would know better; but as Talleyrand once said of France’s restored Bourbon Dynasty, “They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing”.
Dwight Weidman is a resident of Greene Township and a graduate of Shepherd University. He is retired from the United States Department of Defense. His career included assignments In Europe, Asia and Central America. Weidman has been in leadership roles for the Republican Party in two states. Most recently he served two terms as Chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party. Involved in web publishing since 1996, he is the publisher of The Franklin County Journal. He has been an Amateur Radio Operator since 1988, getting his first license in Germany. He is a past volunteer with both Navy and Army MARS, Military Auxiliary Radio Service, and is also an NRA-Certified Firearms Instructor.