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Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf rethinking veto of transparency bill

Gov. Tom Wolf responds to questions from reporters July 24, 2020, during a visit to Lancaster Health Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 

(The Center Square) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf told reporters Friday he may not veto a bill requiring access to public records during disaster declarations after all.

The about-face follows a week of doubling down against the unanimously passed House Bill 2463 because of fears that it would compel the release of sensitive information or force agency employees to enter state buildings during unsafe conditions.

“If I can be assured that this can be implemented in a way that is safe for the employees, then it isn’t a bad choice,” Wolf said after a tour of Lancaster Health Center. “If I can, I’m fine with this. If I were a member of the Legislature, I would have voted for it too. But I have to take responsibility for the employees working at the Capitol.”

“We’ve got to be able to do both,” he added. “We have to be open and transparent and keep our employees safe.”

Rep. Seth Grove, R-York, sponsored the bill this spring at the height of the pandemic and the administration’s expansion of powers awarded as a condition of the statewide emergency declaration. He’s led an informal public campaign to pressure Wolf – ostensibly a staunch advocate of government transparency – to sign the bill.

“He preaches it, but [signing] this would without a doubt solidify him as the most open governor we’ve ever had in Pennsylvania,” he said during a conference call with reporters earlier this week.

The 10-day clock for Wolf to veto the bill – or let it lapse into effect – runs out Sunday.

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