NEFAC, Mass. Open Government Advocates Decry Gov. Baker’s Veto of Remote Access Funds

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker yesterday vetoed $30 million in the general government infrastructure bond bill (H.5065) that the Legislature authorized for grants to expand remote and hybrid access to public meetings in municipalities throughout the state.

Advocates — including the New England First Amendment CoalitionACLU of Massachusetts, Boston Center for Independent Living, Common Cause Massachusetts, Disability Law Center, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers AssociationMASSPIRG and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council — released the following joint statement in response:

“We are stunned that Governor Baker vetoed this funding for local civic engagement. We cannot comprehend why he would stand in the way of the Legislature’s strategic investment to help our 351 cities and towns modernize the way they conduct public meetings. Across the Commonwealth, remote access to public meetings has significantly increased public participation in state and local government, and has lowered long-standing barriers for people with disabilities, people with limited access to transportation, and people with work and family obligations. We cannot go back to requiring that people be physically present in order to participate in their local democracy. We are grateful for the Legislature’s leadership on this issue, and we are confident they will continue to invest in municipalities seeking to remove these barriers. We ask that lawmakers use all available tools to secure this necessary and timely funding, including by overriding the governor’s ill-considered veto if they come back into formal session.”

NEFAC and its partners in Massachusetts are advocating for legislation (H.3152/S.2082) that would permanently update the Open Meeting Law to require a hybrid meeting format so that members of the public can access and participate in public meetings remotely, in addition to the option of attending in person.

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. Please make a donation here.

Leadership Circle donors include the Rhode Island Foundation, Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Boston University, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett for the First Amendment Museum, Linda Pizzuti Henry, Connecticut Public and GBH-Boston.