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Senate government committee approves transparency bills

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The Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee announced the approval of four bills aimed at increasing government transparency.

State Sen. David Argall (R-29), chairman of the committee, said the bills would apply to state and local governments.

“Openness and transparency are key to building trust in our government,” Argall said. “One of my main goals as chairman of this committee has been to ensure that every Pennsylvanian can know and understand the details of how their government works.”

The committee approved two Senate bills and two House bills. Senate Bill 488 will require additional salary and budget information to be disclosed by Penn State University, University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Lincoln University. The bill would increase the amount of academic staff salary information that must be disclosed and provide access to budget and contract information in searchable online databases.

“As we are reminded during budget season, our state-affiliated universities receive over $500 million in taxpayer dollars each year,” said Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33). “We owe it to the taxpayers of our Commonwealth to provide visibility into how taxpayers’ money is being used.”

Senate Bill 1130 was also defeated by the committee and allows local governments to stream their meetings online and take comments remotely.

Two internal bills – House Bill 2485 and House Bill 2219 – refer to state agencies. HB 2485 would require state agencies to make information about state contracts over $10,000 available online. HB 2219 would require a report by August 1, 2022, explaining the extension of a regulatory hold in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee’s votes to approve the bills came after the committee’s public hearing last week on the review of legislation to update the Right to Know Act, which allows residents and organizations to Pennsylvania to request information about the operation of state and local agencies, the General Assembly, the judiciary, and state-related universities.