House votes to allow agency commercial records request fees

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The state House on Tuesday voted for a proposal to let governments charge additional fees when they get Right-to-Know Law requests for records intended to be used for commercial purposes.

State representatives voted 177 to 15 to send the Senate a bill that outlines how the additional search, review and duplication fees would be established.

It would apply for records that are intended to be resold, lists of names for commercial solicitation and requests for any other purpose intended to generate revenue. There are exemptions for nonprofit educational or scientific purposes and news gathering.

The prime sponsor, Lehigh County Republican Rep. Justin Simmons, said the goal is to help governmental entities cope with commercial requests that can be difficult to fulfill.

“It was one of the common issues that I heard from all of my municipalities,” Simmons said. “Many of these municipalities run on shoestring budgets. They're very understaffed, and when they're bombarded with these commercial requests, it's a big problem."

The fees would have to be “reasonable” and approved by the state Office of Open Records.

The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, an industry group, is neutral on the bill.