16 September 2011

PaHR-Access Pennsylvania Genealogy Bill (Major Update)

After PaHR-Access' article of two days ago titled "Pennsylvania Dept of Health still fighting any change", Scott Sikorski's declaration today comes as a pleasant surprise. Sikorski is the Legislative Director of Senator Jake Corman who sits as Appropriations Committee chair. Sikorski stated that Senate Bill 361 will pass from the Appropriations Committee when the senate reconvenes on Monday, the 19th.

This action is expected to occur at about 12:30pm EST, but if there is a call for discussion the action may take place closer to 2:30pm, Sikorski said. Sikorski was helpful to answer all of my questions regarding the movement of this bill. While the Fiscal Note from the committee does not become public record until Monday, Sikorski was able to report that this bill would create "no adverse impact" on the finances of the state. Sikorski also reported that there is a standing agreement with Ancestry.com to digitize and index the death certificates at no cost to the state. While a date of availability has not been fixed, we may "anticipate a high priority" in the Ancestry.com process. The resulting records will be searchable at the Pennsylvania Archives Search Room as well as to Ancestry.com subscribers. In 3 years from the time the bill is passed the PHMC (Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission) website will make these same records available. This is the website which hosts the page for the Pennsylvania Archives. Being aware of FamilySearch International's intent to make these same record available I asked Sikorski about the potential availability at FamilySearch.org, and though he did not know the answer, he agreed to write a letter to find out.

While these are the aims of the bill as outlined by the Appropriations Committee as they prepare to pass it to the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate, the success of the bill continues to hinge on all remaining steps in the legislative process. Thanks for all of your enthusiasm and help in making this step in the process possible.

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