Please contact your representative AND your senator NOW and urge them to vote for public records reform, emphasizing that H.3665 (rewrite of H.2772) is essential for Massachusetts. This bill updates our Public Records access laws for the first time since the 1970s.
The LWV of Massachusetts, as a member of the Mass Freedom of Information Coalition (MassFOIA), has worked hard and was thrilled when the Joint Committee on State Administration and Oversight released the bill favorably from committee with modest changes. This bill is currently in the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Now the Mass Municipal Association is trying to generate massive opposition to the bill, and we need your help in letting our legislators know that concerned citizens, the news media and others seeking public records have a right to them.
- Massachusetts is ranked 46th out of the 50 states for lack of access to public records that you the taxpayer already paid to have created.
- One state agency actually just won the Golden Padlock award for being the most secretive public agency in the entire USA. They beat out the US Defense department!
- There are no teeth to the current law, and thus agencies routinely ignore requests or charge outrageous fees. This bill adds the teeth already used in 46 other states, i.e. allowing courts to award attorney’s fees when an agency is found to have violated the law.
- This is NOT an un-funded mandate, contrary to what is asserted by bureaucrats that want to maintain secrecy. Reasonable fees can be charged under the new bill and reasonable times to fulfill requests are allowed.
- Transparent government is essential to a functioning democracy. This bill promotes making records electronic and available on-line. It also mandates that an agency have a “records access officer” so that those making inquiries know to whom to speak and don’t get the run around.
- The bill contains provisions to assure that gadflies and inordinately large volume requests can be handled separately.
For more information, see this article from the July 19 Boston Globe.