Let Sunshine Law in: Many issues are creating clouds

This is National Sunshine Week, a celebration of open government and the people’s right to know what their public servants are doing in their name.

It just so happens the week falls as a number of bills are working their way through the Legislature to change which taxpayer-funded documents you are allowed to see.

For example, we respectfully want to know why Pennsylvanians aren’t allowed to hear 911 tapes, when that is allowed in 29 other states.

Why are police incident reports not public in Pennsylvania?

Shouldn’t Penn State and other state-related institutions follow the same open records rules as schools in the state system of higher education? Those schools would split $412.8 million under Gov. Corbett’s proposed budget. Penn State, Pittsburgh, Lincoln and Temple would get $503 million. In light of recent developments at Penn State, wouldn’t it be fair to be able to see where all that money is going?

Why should private contractors doing work for government agencies be allowed to conceal documents that would be public if the government agency were doing the work for themselves? The money the agencies are spending is yours, after all.

There are plenty more, much of it to be discussed in coming weeks, including the scary proposition that bidding on public projects need not be published in newspapers. Millions and millions of dollars are spent on public projects. Is hiding the bidding on such projects on an obscure website that most people aren’t aware of really a forthright way to bid these projects? Is it even fair to the contractors doing the bidding?

The state upgraded its archaic Right to Know Law a few years back, but it’s clear that Pennsylvania still lags behind most other states when it comes to allowing its taxpaying residents easy access to what should be public records.

It’s an election year. That’s the perfect time to ask both incumbents and their challengers what their position is on the public disclosure issues listed above and others.

And hold them to those positions. It’s your money. It’s your state. It’s your right to know how the state is conducting your business.

-Williamsport Sun-Gazette