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WATCH: A free Q&A on Pa.’s open records law and how it affects our work

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Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know law allows requesters to obtain public records from local and state government agencies, but it's far from perfect.
Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know law allows requesters to obtain public records from local and state government agencies, but it's far from perfect.
TIM TAI / Philadelphia Inquirer

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Spotlight PA fights hard to keep Pennsylvania’s local and state governments accountable. Often, this fight includes wrestling with the limits of the open records law and endlessly filing Right-to-Know requests to get documents and information from elected officials.

The Right-to-Know Law, established in 2008, allows requesters to obtain public records from local and state government agencies such as police and health departments, city councils, and courts. It’s a valuable reporting tool, and in theory, offers all residents the chance to see how government works (or doesn’t). But it’s far from perfect, and loopholes and exceptions can turn otherwise straightforward requests into drawn-out lawsuits.

During Sunshine Week we held a virtual Q&A on government transparency in Pennsylvania. Our reporters broke down their coverage of state agencies, public records experts explained the limits of the records law, and we discussed how you can file open records requests. Watch the discussion below.

Our panelists were:

  • Danielle Ohl, investigative reporter for Spotlight PA

  • Angela Couloumbis, capitol reporter for Spotlight PA

  • Jamie Martines, health reporter for Spotlight PA

  • Paula Knudsen Burke, attorney for Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

  • Erik Arneson, deputy treasurer for communications for the Pennsylvania Treasury

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