Legislation to clarify the status of volunteer emergency responders under Pennsylvania’s new Right-to-Know Law has passed the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9) and Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), chair of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee, said Senate Bill 851 is needed to address a Final Determination issued earlier this year by the Office of Open Records.
“Our intent was never to have volunteer fire companies, ambulance services and rescue companies be covered by the Right-to-Know Law,” Senator Pileggi said. “They should be subject to the law to the extent they have contracts with government agencies, but otherwise should be treated the same as other non-profit organizations.”
“All across Pennsylvania, volunteer responders dedicate an extraordinary amount of time and hard work to keeping our communities safe,” Senator Baker added. “Their efforts are very much appreciated, and this bill will allow them to focus on protecting our families.”
Under Senate Bill 851, volunteer fire companies and other volunteer emergency responders will not be subject to the Right-to-Know Law except in cases where a contract exists with a government agency to provide such services. In such cases, financial records related to the contract will be public.
Information about grants or other government funding provided to volunteer emergency responders will be available through the agency providing the grant.
Terry Mutchler, the Office of Open Records’ executive director, supports the legislation as long as financial records for any government monies remain public. “We share the belief that volunteer organizations such as those in the bill should be exempted,” she wrote in a letter to Senator Pileggi.
Senate Bill 851 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Erik Arneson (Senator Pileggi)
Jennifer Wilson (Senator Baker)