Leaders in the Massachusetts state House of Representatives and the state Senate proved themselves to be good-government reformers today when they voted unanimously to fix our state public records law.
The current law—last updated in 1973—has been one of the worst in the nation, making it tough for citizens to get information about how their government functions. Last November, the Center for Public Integrity gave the Commonwealth a failing "F" grade for public access to government information—for the second time in a row.
Thanks to today's vote, Massachusetts can finally raise its grade. Responding to a two-year public campaign led by the ACLU of Massachusetts and other open-government groups, the state House and state Senate today voted unanimously to fix the law. The reform bill sets clear limits on how much money government agencies can charge for public records, and creates an enforcement mechanism, by giving courts the ability to require those who wrongly deny access to public records to pay the court costs of those who take them to court—something that 47 other states already do.
Kudos to House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Rep. Peter Kocot, who led this battle in the House, and to Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Sen. Joan Lovely, and Sen. Jason Lewis, who led this reform effort in the Senate.
We hope the Governor makes good on his pledge of government transparency by signing this much-needed reform as soon as it reaches his desk.
Carol Rose is executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts.