Pennsylvania FOIA Laws

Pennsylvania Sunshine Act

The Pennsylvania Sunshine Act legislates the method by which public meetings are conducted. Title 65 statutes 701-726 of the Pennsylvania code define the law. The law states that a meeting is any prearranged gathering of a quorum of the members of a public body to discuss public matters. If violated, the court may rule that any or all official action taken at the meeting is invalid. Anyone can bring a legal challenge within 30 days from the date of a meeting, or within 30 days from the discovery of any action taken at an illegal meeting, as long as the complaint does not come more than one year after the meeting.

Sunshine Act 65 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 261 et. seq.

Closed: Attorney consultations; collective bargaining; certain personnel matters; and some real estate transactions.

Pennsylvania Right to Know Law

The Pennsylvania Right to Know Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies. Prior to 2008, the Pennsylvania Right to Know Act was widely regarded as one of the worst in the country, partly because the pre-2008 law presumed that government records were not public, unless someone who wanted the record could establish otherwise. A new law passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Ed Rendell "flipped the presumption". This new law went into full effect on January 1, 2009 and it states, in sharp distinction to the previous law, that all documents will be presumed to be opento the public unless the agency holding them can prove otherwise.

The Pennsylvania Right to Know Law defines records as, “information, regardless of physical form or characteristics, that documents a transaction or activity of an agency and that is created, received or retained pursuant to law or in connection with a transaction, business or activity of the agency." Any United States citizen may request public records and no statement of purpose is required. There is no restriction on the use of records and five days is the limit for responses to requested documents.

Right to Know Law  65 Pa. Stat. Section66.1 etseq.

Exempt: Most investigative records; birth and death records; and accident reports. Also see:Office of Open Records

Visit, Pennsylvania Sample FOIA Request, to view a sample FOIA request for the state.