Sunday, March 28, 2010

Newspaper: Pennsylvania deserves better Sunshine Act

A day doesn't go by when elected officials don't violate the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act by conducting the public's business behind closed doors.

An effort in the state Legislature to put some teeth behind the law -- such as raising the fine for violators from $100 to $1,000 -- is long overdue, argues the Reading Eagle.

Among the suggested improvements:

Any reform bill, the newspaper argues, should include:
A requirement that public bodies prepare an agenda prior to all public meetings and make it available 48 hours ahead of the meeting; and that such an agenda include matters scheduled for official action and describe any private session it plans to hold.

A requirement that public bodies keep verbatim records of all closed meetings, in the form of an audio or video recording, so that, if the private session is challenged in court, a judge could review the meeting to determine if it was closed legally.

Giving courts the power to require that a given meeting be open to the public and giving courts the power to void any action taken in violation of the Sunshine Act.

These requirements would force public bodies to justify executive sessions and give the public both more reason to believe in their legitimacy and give recourse if a member of the public believes a violation occurred.
Read the full editorial at the link below:

Pennsylvania public deserves a much better Sunshine Act

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