Pennsylvania Genealogists – take note… My friend, Jim Beidler, wrote the following information about the potential watering down of the open records legislation now underway in Pennsylania. The following is just an excerpt of his article in the November 27, 2011 edition of the Lebanon Daily News.
Just when advocates for the reform of vital records laws in Pennsylvania think it’s safe to think that the long-sought-after changes are a done deal, another bump in the road.
Less than two weeks ago, the Health Committee of the House of Representatives, which is chaired by Rep. Matthew Baker of Tioga County, approved Senate Bill 361 by a vote of 24-0. That came on the heels of a unanimous state Senate vote a couple of months ago.
Then Rep. Ronald G. Waters of Philadelphia, the only member of the Health Committee who missed that meeting, filed several amendments to the bill that will need to be voted upon on the House floor.
To recap, Senate Bill 361 makes open records of Pennsylvania death certificates more than 50 years old and birth certificates more than 105 years old. It also transfers the certificates once they become open records to the Pennsylvania State Archives.
The most substantial of Waters’ amendments would say that the birth and death records are “open for public inspection” rather than becoming “public records.” Another of his amendments redundantly reasserts the state Department of Health’s power to charge fees for certified copies of the certificates.