After years of keeping many records secret, lawmakers mull changes in wake of #MeToo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – As more accusations of sexual harassment hit the state Capitol, House Democrats say they’ll consider changes that would make more records from the legislature public.

“Thankfully, we are experiencing the beginnings of a cultural shift that should have happened years ago,” State Rep. Patty Kim said during a news conference on Thursday, held in reaction to recent accusations against State Rep. Nick Miccarelli.

Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law has special exceptions allowing the House and Senate to withhold records other government agencies must turn over. For example, the law required the governor’s administration to give ABC27 records showing how many harassment complaints were filed in each state department last fiscal year. But that same statute allowed the House and Senate to keep the number of harassment complaints filed in the legislature secret.

During Thursday’s House Democratic Caucus news conference pushing for transparency and changes to the Capitol’s harassment reporting system, ABC27 asked if there are plans to introduce legislation that would require lawmakers and their staff to follow the same transparency rules as other government employees.

“Thank you for your question,” state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky said. “Women in the House and Senate have introduced an entire package of bills on this issue.”

House Bill 1965 would name lawmakers accused of harassment if those accusations are deemed credible after an independent investigation. A public report to the General Assembly would show those names, how many complaints were filed, how many were found to have merit, and how many were dismissed.

“I’m not aware of any legislation that would specifically do that,” Krueger-Braneky said when ABC27 pressed about whether changes to the Right to Know Law as a whole would be considered.

“But as we review legislative solutions to these issues, it’s certainly something we can discuss,” Krueger-Braneky added as other Democrats surrounding the podium nodded. “I’m going to make a note of that.”

House Republican Caucus spokesperson Stephen Miskin said House Republicans would need to take a closer look at the Right to Know Law and any proposed changes before responding with an official position.

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