Hearing addresses right-to-know overhaul

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Proposed legislation bringing the University of Pittsburgh as well as Penn State, Temple and Lincoln universities under both the state's Right-to-Know and Ethics laws will undergo a public hearing tonight in Western Pennsylvania.

The 7 p.m. session is set for the Student Community Center on Penn State's Greater Allegheny campus in McKeesport. An earlier hearing was held in July in State College.

The proposal is part of a larger legislative package, whose primary sponsor is state Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Centre County. The package also addresses the structure of Penn State's board of trustees, including a proposed requirement that statewide office holders not join the panel until four years after their terms end.

The four bills were introduced in January, but they have yet to receive a vote in their respective committees: the Education Committee, where House bills 299 and 310 are stationed, and the State Government Committee, where House bills 311 and 312 await votes.

"The window for this type of reform is closing. If we don't get these bills passed through this session, I highly doubt we will have the opportunity again," said Tor Michaels, Rep. Conklin's chief of staff.

Mr. Michaels said the July session in State College drew approximately 70 people. He said sponsors are hoping to gauge interest elsewhere in the state and are hoping for a sizable turnout Wednesday night.

The session was scheduled before it became known that the Pittsburgh Pirates would face off against the St. Louis Cardinals tonight in the deciding game of their National League Division Services.

Mr. Michaels said comments also are being accepted in by email at sconklin@pahouse.net or via Mr. Conklin's Facebook account.

Mr. Michaels said Mr. Conklin's legislation mirrors recommendations made by then Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner. Penn State already has enacted some structural changes to its trustees board

Open government advocates have expressed hope the legislation would pass this year, extending the Right-to Know Law to the four institutions that collectively receive hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds but to date are largely exempt from the law.

Tonight's hearing is to be held in the Ostermayer Room of the student community center.

education - electionspa - state

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977 and on Twitter: @BschacknerPG. First Published October 8, 2013 8:00 PM


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