Action Needed to Help Mass. Public Records Reform; Legislation to Improve Access to Information at Risk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT Justin Silverman | justin@nefirstamendment.org | 774.244.2365

Our work to improve the Massachusetts public records law nearly paid off last week.

image001The House of Representatives scheduled a vote on HB 3665, legislation that would broaden access to public records and provide enforcement measures in the law where currently there are none. The New England First Amendment Coalition has worked on the public’s behalf for years to advance this type of legislation and as of last week it appeared on track for approval.

Nearly overnight, that changed.

An aggressive lobbying effort by the Massachusetts Municipal Association and other municipal lobbying groups led to the cancellation of the vote and the bill is at risk of being killed.

We need your help. Today.

Please call or email your respective state representative and senator now and encourage them to support this public records reform. The call takes only a few minutes but will make a significant difference.

If you’re a member of the press, please consider running editorials in favor of this legislation and report on our efforts to reform the state’s public records law.

NEFAC and other open government advocates — a joint effort named the Massachusetts Freedom of Information Alliance — have been working to improve the state’s public records law. It is in desperate need of reform.

The Boston Globe yesterday reported the following distressing statistics:

  • Massachusetts ranks 49 out of all 50 states in the length of time it takes government agencies to respond to public record requests.
  • Massachusetts is one of only three states where people cannot recoup legal fees if they win a public records lawsuit.
  • Massachusetts is the only state where the judicial branch, the legislature and the governor all assert they are exempt from the public records law.

NEFAC President Thomas Fiedler, a former editor of the Miami Herald, compared moving from Florida, a state with broad access to public records, to Massachusetts as “like walking from sunshine into a dark room.”

“In Florida, the default position is that government belongs to the public,” Fiedler said in The Boston Globe article. “Here in Massachusetts, I got the sense that the burden is exactly the opposite.”

Please help us send a reminder to Massachusetts legislators that government belongs to the public here too.

We need your immediate action. Thank you for your support.

Justin Silverman, Esq.
Executive Director

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NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Donations can be made here. Major Supporters of NEFAC for this year include: The Robertson Foundation, The Providence Journal Charitable Foundation, The Boston Globe and Boston University.