HARRISBURG – As Pennsylvanians, we are guaranteed the right to be present during discussions and make comment on items of public concern. That is a right guaranteed through the state’s open meetings law, better known as the Sunshine Act.
Locally, GantDaily and other news organizations have challenged the ability of elected officials to conduct such actions. In those cases, any alleged violation was cured with a new vote being taken and an opportunity for public comment.
What would have happened if the cure was not made? Each official could have been fined $100.
According to some state Senate members, that is not a stiff enough penalty.
Sen. Joseph Scarnati, R-25 of Brockway, was one of 12 senators to jointly introduce legislation that would make Sunshine Act violators pay a $1,000 fine for the first offense and a $2,000 fine for a second offense.
“The Sunshine Act needed to be amended in order to see that all levels of government are making greater efforts to be more transparent and open to the citizens of the Commonwealth,” Scarnati said.
Scarnati said he believes this bill, Senate Bill 467, has a “good chance” of passing in the General Assembly and being signed by Gov. Edward G. Rendell.
“Without question, legislators across Pennsylvania recognize that citizens want and need to be kept informed of what is occurring at levels of government.”
In addition to the steeper fines, the bill states that the offending official cannot be reimbursed for the fine nor can the municipality or authority pay the fine for the offender.