The heat is on (again) to reform the state’s public-records law

Photo of the Massachusetts Statehouse (cc) by Tony Fischer.
Photo of the Massachusetts Statehouse (cc) by Tony Fischer.

Remember those golden days of last spring, when it looked like the Massachusetts Legislature might actually take some steps to fix the state’s broken public-records law? The effort was derailed, unfortunately, as opponents — including the Massachusetts Municipal Association, a lobbying organization for the state’s 351 cities and towns — argued that the proposed changes amounted to an unfunded mandate.

Now advocates for open government are gearing up again. The Boston Globe has been especially strong the past few days, reporting that the State Police have been fighting against reform for undisclosed reasons (secret reasons for preserving secrets?) and that the Center for Public Integrity has once again awarded the state an “F” for its current public-records law, once of the worst in the country. (Here’s the report card.) The paper editorialized in favor of passage as well.

The Boston Herald published a strong editorial on Oct. 24 (which makes mention of the State Police’s opposition) and an Associated Press story on Oct. 31.

The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, among the largest of GateHouse Media’s more than 100 community newspapers in Eastern Massachusetts, had this to say in an editorial posted over the weekend:

If there are good arguments against making public records more easily available to the public, let’s bring them out of the legislators’ private offices and debate them on the floor of the House and the Senate. It’s time legislative leaders keep their promises and bring public records reform up for a vote.

The Gloucester Times, part of the CNHI-owned Eagle-Tribune group in the northeast part of the state, editorialized in favor of reform last week.

Needless to say, reform is long overdue. It’s long past time for the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Baker to fulfill their promises for more transparent government in Massachusetts.