The Pennsylvania House has passed a bill creating an online database posting government financial information.
The legislation would create a website called PennWATCH, which would allow people to view state government expenditures online.
The measure was approved unanimously, but during debate, many Democrats griped its language has too many loopholes, and some agencies will be able to keep information off the website. They also complained about the fact data would only be uploaded once a year, instead of in real time. “In this age of YouTube and Twitter and tweets, real-time data is what the public expects,” said Democrat Rick Mirabito, who authored a similar bill that passed the House last session. Another Democrat, Mike Sturla, said the measure is “fake reform,” continuing, “It’s like real genuine pleather. It’s not exactly what you thought it was, but it kind of looks good on the outside. This is not real reform.”
Sponsor Jim Christiana, a Beaver County Republican, pushed back. “Seems like there’s some people that are disappointed,” he said on the floor. “Folks, we know that this could grow in the future, but we are in tough budget and economic times. We must do everything in this chamber with a level of fiscal responsibility to the highest degree.”
Governor Tom Corbett has supported the idea, and the Senate has passed similar bills in previous sessions.
It’s unclear when the upper chamber will take up the measure. The legislation is one of six Republican-sponsored reform bills that passed the House this week. Others would increase penalties for lobbyists who violate rules, and increase the scope of right-to-know laws, among other changes.