What are the Sunshine Act and Right to Know Law?
The Sunshine Act and Right to Know Law are Pennsylvania’s primary public access laws. These laws guarantee the public’s right to access government information at public meetings and through public records. Public access to meetings and records is fundamental to the public’s ability to understand government actions and hold government officials accountable.
The Sunshine Act applies to public agencies, which include Pennsylvania executive branch agencies, the General Assembly, and municipal authorities, such as township boards of supervisors and local school boards. The Act requires agencies to hold public meetings any time a quorum deliberates agency business or takes official action. As with many laws, there are exceptions to the public meeting requirements of the Sunshine Act, but the law begins with a statement of intent, stressing the right of the public to witness the decision-making process to ensure that the democratic process functions properly.
The Right to Know Law applies to executive branch agencies and local agencies, including school districts, townships, other municipalities, and authorities. The law also applies on a limited basis to the General Assembly and to the court system’s financial records. The law begins with the presumption that records in the possession of government agencies are public records and must be provided within the framework of the law. There are exemptions to the law that allow agencies to deny public access, but the law places the burden of proof on an agency to show why a requested record is not public.
March 15 - 21, 2020
2020 Sunshine Week Promotional Advertising Campaign
Each year in March, news media organizations across the country celebrate Sunshine Week. We take this time to highlight the importance of transparency in our government, and we underscore the vital work our journalists do to fight for access to records that shed light on government activity.
The Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association has designed print and digital ads for Sunshine Week. To access these ads, along with the corresponding editorial from PNA President Brad Simpson, please visit the link below. We are asking publications to run these ads and the editorial during Sunshine Week – March 15-21.
You can rest assured knowing that before, during and after Sunshine Week, PNA continues to advocate, on your behalf, for more access to essential information from all levels of government. We remain focused on three key transparency issues – for public agencies to record executive sessions, for requiring agencies to provide agendas in advance of meetings so the public can attend and participate in issues that matter to them and for keeping public notices in newspapers.
If you have questions about this campaign, please email the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association’s marketing team at Marketing@PANewsMedia.org.
2019-20 Legislative Session
Representative Aaron Bernstine has introduced House Bill 1069, which requires government agencies to make meeting agendas available to the public prior to all public meetings. This bill moved out of the House of Representatives unanimously and awaits action in the Senate.
PNA supports this legislation and encourages you to reach out to your local legislator asking them for their support.
2017-18 Legislative Session
PNA sent letters to members of the House State Government Committee pushing movement on House Bills 37 and 1531 amending the Sunshine Act. House Bill 37 requires agencies to obtain legal advice before calling an executive session, to make a verbatim recording of executive sessions and other provisions that promote compliance with the law. House Bill 1531 requires agencies to provide detailed meeting agendas to the public prior to all public meetings and preclude agencies from taking official action on matters that do not appear on the meeting agenda.
Sunshine Act Compliance Concerns
The Times-Tribune (Scranton)
Bucks County Courier Times
LNP / LancasterOnline
The Bradford Era
Citizens’ Voice (Wilkes-Barre)
Beaver County Times
LNP / LancasterOnline
Delaware County Daily Times
The Philadelphia Tribune
Beaver County Times
Pennlive / The Patriot-News (Harrisburg)