Keep ball rolling on open records

June 20, 2008

The new Open Records Law was signed by Gov. Ed Rendell on Feb. 14. It will add transparency to government records when it takes effect Jan. 1, 2009. Two other bills that still are pending will make it even better.

Sen. Pat Browne, R- Lehigh County, introduced the PA Taxpayer Transparency Act in April. It would make details about the budget available to the public. It would create a database, searchable on the Internet, for people to look up all kinds of budget details.

Another measure goes back to 2007, but has been sitting in a Senate committee. The Data Quality Act, Sponsored by Sen. Edwin Erickson, R-Chester and Delaware counties, would require state agencies to make research, statistics and databases available to citizens. Taxpayers paid for the data to be collected, so they have a right to see it. Nor would this be a costly mandate. This information exists electronically within the agencies, so providing Internet access would not be burdensome.

Both of these bills deserve floor votes now. The full Senate should pass them, and the House should concur. Then, Gov. Rendell should sign them. We understand that the Legislature is pre-occupied with the state budget right now, but nothing is more important than helping Pennsylvania taxpayers understand where, how and why their tax money is being spent.

These relatively simple changes will help them get that information.