State Rep. Craig Staats (R-Bucks), who co-sponsored legislation to ensure government transparency during emergency declarations, is imploring Gov. Tom Wolf to sign the bill. Staats said the bill is needed because Wolf continues to keep Pennsylvania citizens in the dark during the COVID-19 pandemic – a time when information and answers are sorely needed.
Wolf ordered the closing of state offices in mid-March, telling employees to work from home. In the meantime, the administration contends the closing of state agencies means they can ignore Right-to-Know (RTK) requests until further notice, but the General Assembly disagrees.
“Both the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, who represent all citizens of this Commonwealth, voted unanimously to pass House Bill 2463,” said Staats. “I co-sponsored this bill to prevent 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 could petition Commonwealth Court to compel the agency to respond to the request.
“House Bill 2463 would provide 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. 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.
“While Wolf was quoted yesterday as saying he, too, would have voted for the bill if he were a legislator, he said he will veto it. That makes no sense. I urge the governor to sign the bill,” Staats said.