March 24, 2017

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March 23, 2017

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March 22, 2017

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March 21, 2017

Rep. Harper: House OKs Study Of Right-to-Know Implementation Costs

The House Tuesday unanimously approved House Resolution 50 sponsored by Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery), Majority Chair of the House Local Government Committee, to study the law’s impact on state and local agencies, including implementation costs.
“Openness and transparency must be a top priority at any level of government, and the Right-to-Know Law serves an important role in ensuring that happens,” Rep. Harper said. “The public deserves to know what’s happening with their government, and we want them to be involved in helping to ensure our state and local governments better meet their needs.”
However, Rep. Harper has heard a number of concerns from local elected officials about the financial impact of the expansion of the Right-to-Know Law implemented nine years ago.
While some legislation has been proposed to amend the law based on those concerns, Rep. Harper is calling for a study to collect hard evidence about the fiscal impact of the law, moving beyond just anecdotal evidence.
Among the concerns raised is potential abuse of the Right-to-Know Law, primarily by inmates who have time to file an endless supply of record requests.
She also referenced reports of businesses filing Right-to-Know requests to obtain information about various permits obtained by residents of a community to solicit business, such as fencing contractors requesting information about pool permits.
“I absolutely support public access to information, but not to further one’s business or for frivolous uses,” Rep. Harper said. “The study will help determine the true impact of these concerns and may help guide us in tweaking the law to protect the interests of our citizens, who deserve easy access to information about their government.”
According to the resolution, the nonpartisan Legislative Budget and Finance Committee would be charged with conducting the study and issuing a report that would include the following:
-- Annual costs associated with the administration of the Right-to Know Law for Commonwealth, judicial and legislative agencies;
-- Annual costs associated with the administration of the Right-to Know Law for local agencies of various sizes and classifications; and
-- Recommendations to help decrease administrative burdens and offset costs for state and local agencies, while still ensuring reasonable access to public records and information.
The report is due in one year.

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March 20, 2017

Senate, House Had $118M Surplus In 2015-16, 71% Increase In Budget Since 1994

The Legislative Audit Advisory Commission Monday accepted the audit report of the General Assembly’s financing which revealed a surplus of $118,442,957 as of June 30, 2016.
“Reserve funds are necessary to ensure the continued and independent operation of the General Assembly,” said Commission Chair Rep. Mark Keller (R-Cumberland). “As recently as two years ago, we had to draw down from these reserves during the lengthy budget impasse about whether to increase sales and income taxes, or control spending.”
Rep. Keller pointed out that the current reserve is about $90 million less than it was 10 years ago, when it totaled more than $210 million.
Below is a breakdown of the reserves included in the audit (as of June 30, 2016):
-- Senate – $23,348,536;
-- House of Representatives – $56,903,139;
-- Legislative Reference Bureau – $6,627,653;
-- Legislative Budget and Finance Committee – $1,352,783;
-- Legislative Data Processing Committee – $14,283,218;
-- Joint State Government Commission – $920,934;
-- Local Government Commission – $631,190;
-- Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control Commission – $376,685;
-- LAAC – $222,000;
-- Independent Regulatory Review Commission – $1,491,058;
-- Capitol Preservation Committee – $3,178,473;
-- Independent Fiscal Office – $2,755,627;
-- Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission – $1,003,999;
-- Commonwealth Mail Processing Center – $4,623,721; and
-- Center for Rural Pennsylvania – $723,941.
“Our goal is to make the audit documents easy to understand and fully accessible to Pennsylvania citizens,” Rep. Keller added. “The public is encouraged to go to the website and review them.”
The full report will be posted on the Legislative Audit Advisory Commission webpage.
Senate/House Budget History
In FY 2002-03 the budget for the House and Senate was $258.1 million which increased to $312.9 million in FY 2016-17.  The General Assembly’s General Fund budget in FY 1994-95 was $182.9 million, which means the Senate and House increased their budget over the last 23 years.