Betty Lou Malesky at Green Valley News reports that the legislatures of both Pennsylvania and Virginia are considering easing their restrictions on vital record access. I've written before about how difficult it is for researchers to obtain vital records in Pennsylvania, and discussed to efforts of People for Better Pennsylvania Historical Records Access (PaHR-Access) to allow researchers to obtain vital records in a reasonable manner, while keeping any privacy concerns in mind.
This is very exciting news for Pennsylvania and Virginia researchers. In Virginia, some would like to restrict access even further - closing birth records for 125 years and marriages and deaths for 75. Currently, they are closed for 100 and 50 years, respectively, and can only be accessed by immediate family members if that time period has not yet passed. The Virginia Genealogical Society has urged the Virginia Legislature to reconsider these restrictions, and according to the above article there are currently 8 proposed options for doing so. Although it is unfortunate to see that longer waiting periods have been proposed, this serious discussion about the needs of genealogical researchers does inspire hope. If you have an interest in Virginia research, you are urged to contact the Virginia Joint Commission on Health Care by October 6th. Please see Ms. Malesky's article above for details.
In Pennsylvania, Vital Records Bill SB-361 has been unanimously passed by the State Senate and will now go to the State House of Representatives for consideration. If this bill passes, death certificates over 50 years old and birth certificates over 105 years old would become open records, and would then be transferred to the Pennsylvania State Archives. Pennsylvania researchers interested in seeing this bill passed should contact the House Health Committee members as soon and as often as possible. Thanks to PaHR-Access for tracking the progress of this legislation, and posting a list of House Health Committee members to contact here.