In terms of public disclosure as public policy, the Pennsylvania Legislature has scant credibility because it exempts itself from the same right-to-know laws that it has applied to almost all other aspects of state and local government.
Yet the legislators are on the mark with a bill, which passed 203-0 in the House and 50-0 in the Senate, requiring the executive branch to continue processing right-to-know requests during public emergencies.
After he issued his COVID-19 emergency declaration March 6, Wolf ordered all state workers who could do so to work from home and suspended executive agencies’ processing of right-to-know requests. Offices of the state treasurer, auditor general and attorney continued to process requests, as did the legislative caucuses.
Wolf said last week he opposes the bill and that it has some “flaws,” which makes it akin to every other bill or law — none of which is perfect.
The bill requires executive agencies to continue processing right-to-know requests during emergencies and rightly so — public disclosure should be considered a core government function. It also requires the administration to disclose the data and other materials it uses to make emergency decisions, such as the models that predict the course of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Wolf should sign the bill or allow it to become law without his signature. If he vetoes it, the Legislature should override it.