OOR Adopts New RTKL Fee Structure

Open records_logo stackedSection 1307 of the Right-To-Know Law requires the Office of Open Records to establish a fee structure for Commonwealth agencies and local agencies. Section 1310 of the RTKL requires the OOR to review that fee structure every other year.

Today, the OOR adopted a new Official RTKL Fee Structure which can be viewed in its entirety here.

Prior to publishing a Draft Update to the Official Fee Structure this year, the OOR prepared a review of recent appellate court cases and Final Determinations issued since the last fee review in July 2014; a comparative analysis of fees assessed by various Pennsylvania agencies; a review of fees charged by copy/printing businesses located in various cities and municipalities across the Commonwealth; and recommendations for future fee reviews. That nine-page document is available here.

On Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, the OOR published the Draft Update to the Official Fee Structure and solicited public comment on the draft update. The draft update was published on the OOR Executive Director’s blog, with notice being prominently displayed on the Fee Structure page of the OOR website. Notice was also provided to subscribers of the OOR’s email newsletter, as well as numerous times on both the OOR’s Twitter feed and the Executive Director’s Twitter feed.

Public comments were accepted through Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. The OOR received nine substantive comments on the Draft Update to the Official Fee Structure. (One comment was received on Aug. 22, 2016, and is included among the nine the OOR received.) Comments were provided by four individual requesters, one attorney, one statewide media organization, and three employees of local agencies.

Among the requesters, one said the charge of “up to $0.25” per black and white copy is too high and pointed out that Staples charges $0.085 (8.5 cents) per black and white copy. Another indicated that he is “okay” with the proposed fee structure. A third requester indicated that the proposed allowable charge for black and white copies “leaves unresolved [the] substance of [a] recent Commonwealth Court Decision on same issue.” However, that individual did not respond to a request for clarification.

The fourth requester focused on the issue of “enhanced electronic access.” Pursuant to Section 1307(e) of the RTKL, the OOR must approve user fees established for enhanced electronic access on a case-by-case basis, so this is outside the scope of the update to the Official Fee Structure. That said, the requester made excellent points which the OOR will take into consideration going forward.

The attorney said that using the phrase “up to” when setting copying fees “is meaningless” and recommended $0.10 for black and white copies and $0.15 for color copies.

The statewide media organization requested that the OOR require agencies to provide electronic copies of records by email when requested, that the OOR’s Fee Schedule should expressly state that the RTKL allows the public to use their own recording devices to make copies of public records, that the fee for color copies should be changed to “up to $0.50 per page or actual cost, whichever is less,” and that the policy should clarify that the requester has the discretion to ask for black and white copies even if the original is in color and color copies are available.

Two employees of local agencies expressed concerns which are outside the scope of the update to the Official Fee Structure, namely that (1) “an inordinate amount of time is spent running reports and data for commercial requestors” and (2) “Some RTK requests take a lot of time – I think there should be a set fee for the time spent on the RTKL and research into whether a request is public or not.” On the first point, legislation has been introduced (including Senate Bill 411) which would establish a separate fee schedule for commercial requests. The third employee of a local agency indicated that, “I am fine with the draft fee schedule.”

Based on these public comments and additional internal review, the OOR made the following changes to the Draft Update to the Official Fee Structure:

  • Reduced the allowable charge for color copies from “up to $0.50” per page to “up to $0.35” per page.
  • Changed the allowable charge for CD/DVD from “up to $3.00” per disc to “up to actual cost, not to exceed $3.00” per disc.
  • Added text to footnote #2 clarifying that a requester may ask for black and white copies even if the original is in color and color copies are available.
  • Added language, including footnote #8, clarifying that a requester may use a personal camera, such as a cellphone camera, to copy a public record.
  • Made minor stylistic and grammatical changes throughout.

The updated Official RTKL Fee Structure is available here.

PA’s Right-to-Know Law: The Basics – Videos

The Office of Open Records has produced four videos, all available at our new YouTube channel.

These videos describe some of the basics of Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law.

Introduction to Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law:

How to File a Request Under PA’s Right-to-Know Law:

How to Respond to a Request Under PA’s Right-to-Know-Law:

How to File an Appeal Under PA’s Right-to-Know-Law:

We plan to produce more videos in the future. If you have suggestions on topics you’d like to see covered, please contact the Office of Open Records or post a comment below.

Presentation to PA Assoc. of Nonprofit Organizations

Open records_logo stackedYesterday, I took part in the fall conference of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations. I hosted a seminar called “New Data Resources” and spoke about the Right-to-Know Law, the open data movement, and related topics.

My thanks to PANO for for inviting me to speak.

Here’s the presentation I used:
Pennsylvania Assoc. of Nonprofit Organizations – Sept. 13, 2016 – PPTX
Pennsylvania Assoc. of Nonprofit Organizations – Sept. 13, 2016 – PDF

Pennsylvania’s Open Data Portal

Pennsylvania’s Open Data Portal officially opened last week.

Users can find data on a variety of topics, including:

At this point, datasets are available from eight state departments, including the Department of Community and Economic Development, the Department of Environmental Protection, and the Department of Human Services. More datasets are on the way.

As I said earlier this year when Governor Tom Wolf announced the open data initiative, Pennsylvania’s embrace of open data will lead to exciting opportunities for taxpayers, academics, and businesses. Experience in other states and regions has proven that good things happen when the government provides open data — data that’s free to be downloaded, used, and redistributed — in a comprehensive, organized way.

I also hope the state’s open data portal will encourage more counties, school districts, and municipalities to take similar steps. Even if a local agency doesn’t have the resources to develop a full-blown open data portal, making more public information instantly available online has many benefits.

Draft Fee Structure Update – Seeking Public Comment

Section 1307 of the Right-To-Know Law requires the Office of Open Records to establish a fee structure for commonwealth agencies and local agencies. Section 1310 of the RTKL requires the OOR to review that fee structure every other year.

The OOR has produced a draft update to the Official Fee Structure (PDF) and is accepting public comment on this draft update through August 19, 2016.

To comment, please email FeeReviewOOR@pa.gov or mail your comments to:

Office of Open Records
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North Street, 4th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17120-0225

Comments will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, August 19, 2016.

The OOR will review all comments received and will issue a final update to the Official Fee Structure no later than August 31, 2016.

OOR Draft Update to Official Fee Structure 2016-08-01 (PDF)

New Website, New Features

Open records_logo stackedToday, the Office of Open Records website was completely revamped.

This post highlights five new features on the website, but first a note: You can continue to find all of the same information that’s always been available on the OOR website. The site has been reorganized, but nothing has been removed.

ONLINE APPEALS FORM

There’s a new online form to fill out when you file an appeal with the OOR.

The goal of this new form is to save everyone time and to help ensure that you submit all of the required information. When you click “submit,” your appeal is instantly transmitted to the Office of Open Records. If you enter a valid email address, you’ll also receive a copy by email for your own records.

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