An interesting piece of proposed change to the Sunshine Law surfaced this week in Harrisburg. The change was passed by the House and, if passed by the Senate, would effect Tredyffrin Township and our Board of Supervisors. The State House of Representatives amended the state’s Sunshine Law by upping the fines for a first violation of the government openness law from $100 to $1,000 and to $2,000 for each subsequent violation.
The measure passed 172 to 24 and now moves to the State Senate.
Opponents of the measure said the fine is too steep for small borough and township governments and claimed the state newspaper trade association was opposed to the measure. The bill’s prime sponsor, State Rep. Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia) said the newspaper association felt the fines should be higher.
The Sunshine Law is aimed at opening the deliberations of state and local government bodies to public scrutiny. There are some exceptions, such as personnel and security discussions that can be held outside public view. Most activities have to be conducted in public, and private meetings of government bodies that constitute a quorum are forbidden by the law. Tom Murray, editor of the Main Line Life Suburban wrote his weekly editorial on Let There Always be ‘Sunshine’ which speaks to the need to keep government open and public. Click here for Tom’s the article.
I wonder if Tredyffrin Township has ever been fined for breaking the Sunshine Law? Do any of you know the answer? And who would file the suit . . . an individual? With a fine of only $100, no one probably ever filed a suit; but at $1,000 for first offense, and $2,000 for subsequent offenses that could change. Personally, I support the newspaper association’s claim that the fine is not high enough . . . it needs to be a level that would make an impact. My guess is that a borough or municipality would be fined once and it would never happen again.
This is an nteresting topic . . . what do you think the penalty should be for breaking the Sunshine Law? Or should there be a penalty?