Oct. 22, 2019

HARRISBURG – As part of a larger package of bills designed to improve recruitment and retention of firefighters and emergency responders in the Commonwealth, legislation drafted by Rep. Lee James (R-Venango/Butler) that would exempt volunteer fire, rescue and ambulance companies from the Right-to-Know Law (RTKL) received strong bipartisan support from the House today.

“Volunteer fire and EMS companies do not have the resources for this type of mandate, whether these resources are financial or human. Our volunteer emergency organizations should not be expending their resources on a governmental function – which does not and should not apply to a private emergency organization – especially when they are already struggling with recruitment and retention of first responders,” James said.

Any funding or assistance that is provided to the Commonwealth’s emergency services organizations through local or state government entities is naturally an open record under other various state and municipal codes that currently require reporting and documentation.

However, there continues to be a debate about whether volunteer fire, rescue and EMS companies are responsible for RTKL requests. The Office of Open Records (OOR) ruled that they are “similar governmental entities” because firefighting is defined as a governmental function, subject to such requests.

Several Common Pleas courts have ruled against OOR while others have sided with the OOR. A final determination that is applicable across the entire state requires a decision by the Commonwealth Court or higher.

As the bill received support from the House, it now moves to the Senate for consideration.

More information about the full legislative package is available at pahousegop.com/helpersandheroes.

Representative Lee James
64th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Alison Evans
RepJames.com / Facebook.com/RepLeeJames