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Politics & Government

State-Related Universities Raise Concerns Over Transparency Proposals

One key question at the heart of a push for more transparency at Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities may keep legislative proposals in park for some time.

Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln are all largely exempt from the state’s open records law, while Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities are held to the standard.

Proposals to get rid of the exemption have been proposed in the House and Senate. The universities have raised concerns or outright opposition to the plans.

Office of Open Records director Terry Mutchler recently told state senators those schools bring up a good point.

"I’ve met with Penn State, I’ve trained them in anticipation of being covered under this law, and you know one of the points they raise that I think is worth a fair discussion is if $379 million of a $4.4 billion budget is taxpayer money, how much transparency does that buy?" Mutchler said.

The Right-to-Know law exemption became a flashpoint after charges were filed against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing children on the university’s campus.

Media organizations requested police records from the school, and Penn State denied, citing its exemption to the open records law.  

Altogether, the four state-related schools received more than $500 million from the commonwealth last year.

A House proposal to get rid of the Right-to-Know exemption cleared a committee vote but has since been tabled by the full chamber.

The sponsor of a similar Senate proposal says he’s not sure how soon lawmakers will be able to take up his measure, given the legislature’s crowded calendar.