Wednesday, October 17, 2007

PA Rep. Tim Mahoney Unavailable to Explain Public Records Exemptions

As we noted here yesterday in Citizen Discontent Open Records Exemptions, a review of Pennsylvania state representative Timothy Mahoney's (House Bill 443) reveals the legislation opens the public records door a bit, then slams the door in the faces of citizens and the press seeking any and all material produced from government officials (public servants.)

The bill contains a long laundry list of exemptions, (over 40 as noted in Kori Walter's article Proposal exempts correspondence from public review ) and as we highlighted, including exclusion of emails not directly containing references to funding, etc...

We called the media on the carpet, specifically for not doing its due diligence when they had Rep. Tim Mahoney in public at a press conference on Monday.

The Press did not press Rep. Mahoney to publicly and totally explain his bill's exemptions after he commented at the Monday press conference "we don't need more investigations."

Now you see what happens, don't you. Rep. Tim Mahoney just isn't available to comment to a reporter seeking further explanation of his bill.

But, Rep. Mahoney should be available to you, the citizens who not only own this country and this state, but who are the bosses of elected public servants.

And to borrow a phrase from Kori Walter, (made the statement during a phone call on a local radio program when I called in and asked his opinion on Mahoney not taking immediate action on Keystone Opportunity Zones when he agreed KOZs are unfair, not uniform according to the PA Constitution, and unconstitution Keystone Opportunity Zones Unfair Agrees State Legislator Tim Mahoney )

THE CITIZENS SET THE AGENDA (Kori Walter, Let's Talk, WMBS 590)

And in this case, the citizens of Pennsylvania want real open public records. The citizens really really do. We do not want the open records door opened a bit, then closed in our faces.

Contact Rep. Mahoney. If Rep. Mahoney hears directly from the disenchanted in his own 51st legislative district - he will have no excuse not to listen to you over whoever is advising him of what "should be" the contents of his bill.

demand your agenda be implemented, not the legislator's half-effort.

Know the facts.

Demand all or nothing. Full open records or nothing at this time.

Demand Rep. Mahoney redo House Bill 443.

State Representative Timothy Mahoney website and contact info

Hon. Tim Mahoney
66A Lebanon Avenue
Uniontown, PA 15401
(724) 438-6100
Fax: (724) 438-6104

Hon. Tim Mahoney
1402 Memorial Blvd.
Connellsville, PA 15425
(724) 626-1164
Fax: (724) 626-1165

Hon. Tim Mahoney
104B East Wing
PO Box 202051
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2051
(717) 772-2174
Fax: (717) 780-4786

It isn't too late to make your demands known. The bill has to go through the legislative process and can be amended and revised before it is adopted.

Pennsylvania State Government Committee

Members Contact Info

Fayette County 52nd District Representative Deberah Kula, member of committee contact

Hon. Deberah Kula
1251 University Drive
Dunbar, PA 15431
(724) 626-2761
Fax: (724) 626-2707

Hon. Deberah Kula
1 Etze Avenue
Municipal Building
Mt. Pleasant, PA 15666
(724) 547-4057
Fax: (724) 547-0399

Hon. Deberah Kula
104A East Wing
PO Box 202052
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2052
(717) 772-1858
Fax: (717) 780-4784

(Net the Truth Online)

Proposal exempts correspondence from public review
By Kori Walter, For the Herald-Standard
Updated 10/17/2007 12:16:00 AM EDT
HARRISBURG - Most state lawmakers' e-mail messages and other correspondence related to public policy decisions would still be off-limits to the public under open records legislation scheduled for a vote today in the House State Government Committee.

Only e-mail messages that contain detailed discussions of spending public money would be available under a proposal to update the state's open records law sponsored by Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-South Union Twp.

Mahoney's legislation would assume most government documents are public and expand the open records law to include the Legislature, which had been exempt.

But an analysis of the bill provided by the state government committee listed about 40 exemptions.

While Mahoney has spent months touting legislation to expand public access to government documents, at least one Capitol watchdog said proposed revisions to the state's open records law would not go far enough in lifting the veil of secrecy shrouding state and local government...

Another controversial provision deals with opening up past records to the public.

The proposal expected to be sent to the full House of Representatives today would not allow access to any records not covered under the current law...

...Mahoney has said he does not support opening up access to past documents because the state has enough investigations and doesn't need anymore.

However, he did not return phone calls seeking comment on Monday...


Lawmakers pledge expanded access to records
Tribune Review Richard Robbins
Friday, October 12, 2007

State Senate Democrats vowed Thursday to pass an expanded Right-to-Know Law by the end of the year in an attempt to win back public confidence in state government after a series of abuses involving backroom deal-making and hidden expense accounts.
Sen. Richard Kasunic, a Fayette County Democrat and chairman of his party's policy committee, said the public is demanding "more accountability and transparency" from state and local governments.

"We think the public has the right to access public records," Kasunic said at a policy committee hearing in Uniontown on open records legislation. "We are very serious about this. It is our intent to make sure we have one of the best open records laws in the land."

Without specifically saying so, what some lawmakers have in mind is allowing the public to draw back the curtain on information that for years has been under wraps in Pennsylvania. These range from the bonuses and salaries paid to legislative aides to the expenses run up by members of state and local authorities and the decisions and actions of state-related universities.

Presumably, anything not specifically exempted would be open to public scrutiny under any new legislation.
Kasunic said an open records bill could be on Gov. Ed Rendell's desk sometime in December. Asked about this prediction after the hearing, Sen. John Wozniak, of Johnstown, shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know. I'm not in charge. It would be nice."

Sen. James Ferlo, the author of one of two Senate bills aimed at broadening the public's right to know, said, "It's time for us to clean up state government."

Ferlo, a Pittsburgh Democrat, touted his bill, which he said would reverse years of practice in Pennsylvania and make public access to government records a right, not a privilege dispensed by state government bureaucrats or elected officials.

"As it currently stands, the person seeking access must prove that he or she has a right to that access," Ferlo said in prepared remarks to the policy committee. "In most states, however, the burden is on the agency to show that specific information is not public under the law."

"Providing access to public records is an essential function of government agencies and an integral part of the fundamental duties of public officials and employees," Ferlo said.

Ferlo's bill would create an Office of Access to hear appeals from citizens and others denied access to public records. He said the office should be funded to the tune of "$4 (million) to $5 million."

The Ferlo legislation is one of three open records bills before the General Assembly. The chief sponsor of a second Senate bill is Sen. Dominic Pileggi, a Delaware County Republican. Fayette County Democrat Tim Mahoney has introduced legislation in the House.

Ferlo said the Pileggi bill was "fundamentally flawed" because it does not presume the public's right to know.

The Web site of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association said Pileggi has "pledged to revise" his bill to include language similar to Ferlo's. Pileggi was not immediately available for comment.

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