House bill proposes changes to Sunshine Law

PA is a sunshine state. This requires by statute that government meetings are open to the public. This critically important concept ensures elected officials are transparent and accountable to voters.

PA’s sunshine laws require elected officials conduct official action and conduct deliberations leading up to official actions in the sunshine.

There are only a few justifications for holding private executive sessions. These include: Personnel matters, discussion of pending litigation, considering the purchasing or lease of land and labor and arbitration issues. 

H.B. 1671 sponsored by Rep. Rick Saccone (R), would more stringently define when a public body could enter private executive session meetings to conduct business. In recent testimony considering the bill widespread abuse of executive sessions was revealed across the Commonwealth. 

“The committee heard very detailed and disturbing testimony from reporters, organizations and citizens about instances where public bodies improperly went into executive session to circumvent  Sunshine Law,” said Saccone. “Abuse of executive session privilege appears to be widespread, with government entities apparently calling private meetings outside the bounds of the law Action clearly needs to be taken.” – Rep. Rick Saccone 

House Bill 1671 would streamline the definitions of instances when executive session can be used. It would also require an audio recording of the executive session so if an allegation arises that the meeting was improperly held, it can be verified later by a judge.

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