Published On: Thu, Jan 28th, 2016

Public records: Keep the pressure on!

I write to urge you to support the public records reform bill that was just released from the Senate Ways & Means Committee, and even to strengthen it. It is a modest proposal that will help improve access, affordability, and accountability.

Our existing public records law, which hasn’t been updated since 1973, fails to fulfill its promise of open and transparent government.

Today, the law says certain information is supposed to be publicly accessible, but it doesn’t work in practice due to excessive fees and lack of enforcement. The Senate’s bill would not expand rights to public information; it would simply help ensure that the law is followed. That’s the least we can do.

The proposed legislation would set reasonable timeframes for responding to requests and begin to limit charges for public information. And it would bring Massachusetts into the mainstream by giving individuals some ability to enforce the law when they are unlawfully denied access to public information–without having to worry about bearing the cost of that enforcement if they are successful.

Please support the proposed legislation, encourage further transparency measures, and oppose any amendments that would erect obstacles to public records access–by weakening enforcement, delaying access, or making public records less affordable to ordinary Massachusetts residents.