ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
SB 492 would amend Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law (RTKL) to make several changes, including the creation of a new subsection permitting agencies to deny requests made by a party involved in litigation against that agency.
Under the Right to Know Law, the reason for a document request or the identity of a requester is irrelevant—the only question is whether the record is a public record. If it is, then all members of the public are entitled to access it, regardless of who they are or why they want it. This applies to individuals or organizations involved in litigation against an agency, all of whom currently have full and equal access to the RTKL, just like any other Pennsylvania resident.
For the 65 years it has had an open records law, Pennsylvania has never defined access to public records based on who is making the request. SB 492 would break that precedent by introducing a dangerous and untested interpretation of how the Right to Know Law has been understood and applied since it was first enacted.
Check the bill's status here.