ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
HB 2524 would amend Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law (RTKL) to make a variety of updates and changes to the statute, including provisions regarding vexatious requesters, requests by incarcerated people, exceptions to public records, retention of records, commercial requests, appeals processes, and fees. SB 492 similarly restricts access to public documents for incarcerated people.
HB 2524 is a well-developed bill that proposes some useful and beneficial changes to the current law. Unfortunately, two provisions in particular—designating some people as “vexatious requesters” and limiting requests from incarcerated people—establish dangerous and potentially unconstitutional precedents for allowing the state to pick and choose to whom it responds.
Any legislation that allows the government to cherry pick who it responds to is dangerous, likely unconstitutional, and creates processes that are needlessly burdensome and punitive to unrepresented citizens who can be targeted by a hostile agency. Individuals who are incarcerated still have rights under the Constitution and the laws of Pennsylvania. They should not be subject to additional punishment and discrimination by being categorically banned from submitting RTKL requests seeking public information—information that any non-incarcerated person would be free to request.