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Senate panel passes bill to broaden Right to Know in Pennsylvania

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 11:06 p.m.

A bill to expand the scope of Pennsylvania's Right to Know at the University of Pittsburgh, Temple, Penn State and Lincoln universities passed the Senate State Government Committee this week, but it still has a long way to go.

Pressure to bring the schools ­— which receive hundreds of millions of dollars a year in state subsidies — under the full provisions of the law began growing in 2011 after the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse scandal stunned Penn State.

Senate Bill 444, among other changes, would require the schools to post information about contracts valued at $5,000 or more and to report the salaries of their 200 highest-paid employees. The bill has bipartisan support in the Senate but likely won't make it to a vote of the full chamber until fall, said Erik Arneson, a spokesman for Senate Republicans.

Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon and minority chair of the State Government Committee, said the changes the bill would make are necessary.

“This is an important step in providing greater transparency and accountability in how significant public funds are being spent,” Smith said.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, said he intends to continue work on the legislation through the summer.

“Pennsylvania's new Open Records Law is widely recognized as one of the best in the nation. This bill makes a number of important and necessary changes, and it's important to get them right,” he said.

Pitt spokesman Ken Service said the university remains committed to working with lawmakers to address such concerns.

“We already make a great deal of information about the University of Pittsburgh available to the public in a convenient and accessible manner, and this proposed expansion of those reporting obligations will add significantly to the information available to the public,” he said.

Debra Erdley is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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