Sunday, July 01, 2007

Last Place Pennsylvania

Lebanon Daily News - Getting up to speedPennsylvania is the last remaining state to fully grasp the power and utility of the Internet as a means of connecting citizens to government.

Some might think, given the state’s pitiful open-records laws, that those in power aren’t all that fired up about giving people access to the halls of power. Some might think that those populating those places of power have something they’re trying to protect — or hide. Some might quite possibly be right.
This is why we need to elect some people who are keen to making online advances for the sake of public knowledge.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pointers from David E:



http://www.ldnews.com/editorials/ci_6261759

http://www.philly.com/philly/wires/ap/news/state/pennsylvania/8210732.html

http://tinyurl.com/3xc3bd

http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/BI/BH/2007/0/HB0976.HTM

http://tinyurl.com/2qxzdf

Anonymous said...

Getting up to speed
Lebanon Daily News
Article Launched: 06/29/2007

To place 50th among 50 states could be a good thing if one is talking about poverty rates or unemployment. But Pennsylvania is the last remaining state to fully grasp the power and utility of the Internet as a means of connecting citizens to government.

Some might think, given the state’s pitiful open-records laws, that those in power aren’t all that fired up about giving people access to the halls of power. Some might think that those populating those places of power have something they’re trying to protect — or hide. Some might quite possibly be right.

As part of continuing reform talk in Harrisburg, freshman Rep. Lisa Bennington, an Allegheny County Democrat, has sponsored a bill just passed by the House that would put Pennsylvania’s statutes on the Internet for free access by those who might need them — read that as almost everyone at one time or another.

As of now, in Pennsylvania but nowhere else in the nation, those seeking to do their own legal research have no recourse but to purchase their own legal textbooks or visit a law library. Neither can be construed as convenient compared to connecting to a Web site and searching to one’s heart’s content.

Doing such research in the ink-and-paper, volumes and catalogs manner is a daunting challenge. The state has 79 groups of statutes, complete with two centuries of footnotes, cross-references and commentary. All of this information is held in 107 volumes of “Purdon’s Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated,” owned by the West Group of St. Paul, Minn., the nation’s largest legal publisher.

Give Pennsylvania a tiny bit of credit. Since 1970 the state has been trying to consolidate its own statutes — in essence doing the work that Purdon’s has already done — but the project has been nibbled at in small pieces during the past nearly four decades, and none of what has been assembled has found its way into the world of electronic media.

Bennington’s bill would push Pennsylvania, last among 50, into the Internet age, at least 10 years after the tool started to boom.

Pennsylvania’s business and government leaders like to tout the state as a potential future home of high-tech businesses. We’d like it to be so, but how can the state really be convincing when companies seeking to relocate discover that there’s no easy way — no online way — to research pertinent statutes regarding any possible relocation. That would serve as a “Do Not Pass Go” moment in our minds. Pick a different state — any other state will do — and let the research commence.

Bennington’s bill has moved to the Senate. We hope the spirit of reform is present in that chamber and that the bill moves on to the governor. Some might think to not have this statutory material readily and freely available to the public shouldn’t just be an anachronism; it should be an embarassment. Some might be right.


The Lebanon Daily News welcomes letters. E-mail them to PaulBaker@LDNews.com or mail them to Letters to the Editor, 718 Poplar St., Lebanon, PA 17042.

Dani K said...

You might want to check out the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association's blog, www.passopenrecords.org, which is trying to push for a fix. We encourage everyone to join the conversation - we need everyone's help to make reform happen here in PA.