Proposed bill would limit private meeting circumstances in Pa.
A House State Government Committee hearing is set in Harrisburg on Wednesday for a bill requiring public discussion of some matters normally taken into executive sessions.
“It is sometimes necessary for a public body to meet in private to discuss certain matters, such as contract negotiations, employee disciplinary action or emergency response plans,” said state Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, the primary sponsor of House Bill 1671. However, “the rules that govern when and how public entities can enter these private meetings are vague and open to abuse.”
HB 1671 would narrow instances when such sessions can be called and require audio recordings of such sessions — as well as of the advice the public body gets from its solicitor — so a judge can rule whether the sessions were proper.
“My goal is to make government as transparent as possible so that the people can have a better grasp on what their elected officials are doing,” Saccone said. “Furthermore, I hope to make it as difficult as possible for government to circumvent the rules.”
State Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, said he co-sponsored HB 1671 because of its provisions about personnel matters as well as issues he encounters as a member of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee.
“HB 1671 spells out that plans may be discussed and reviewed in executive session as they relate to security and emergency preparedness, including the physical security of buildings, staff training, communication procedures, plans for evacuation, lock-down or other safety measures, coordination with police, fire and other safety agencies,” Kortz said. “Disclosure of these plans could jeopardize safety so they can be kept confidential (but costs can) be discussed at an open meeting.”
The State Government Committee will convene on Wednesday at 9 a.m. The hearing will be streamed live at www.RepSaccone.com.
Saccone said he could not get a list of scheduled witnesses as of presstime.
“They would not release the list of testifiers until ... after the members are informed,” the Elizabeth Township Republican said.
Saccone introduced four other bills last year with an aim to reform a variety of public dealings:
• House Bill 1667 would ban any public official or employee from soliciting gifts or gratuities from anyone doing business or seeking to do business with the public figure's governing body.
• House Bill 1668 would clarify the definition of a public official.
• House Bill 1669 would ban gifts to public officials of more than $100 in transportation, lodging or hospitality in a 24-hour period.
• House Bill 1670 would raise maximum penalties for failure to file financial statements in a timely manner from $250 to $2,000.
All five were introduced and referred to the State Government Committee around Labor Day. None have seen action.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Officials envision reinvigorated Allegheny County Airport
- Police confiscate heroin, phones, cash in North Versailles bust
- Robber hits White Oak store
- North Versailles names Matrazzo new police chief
- Mon-Yough communities prepare for Memorial Day
- U.S. Steel gives $60,000 to scholarship program to help Mon-Yough area schools
- West Mifflin adds staff for summer lunch program
- West Mifflin Area moves to issue iPad minis to sixth-graders
- Mon-Yough Laurels & Lances
- Munhall may expand rec board
- Black candidates make history in McKeesport