Fast Facts on Public Records Reform – #1

Fast Facts on Public Records Reform - #1

First post in a 5-part blog series on 21st century public records reform in Massachusetts.

Over the next week, leading right up to the Massachusetts Legislature’s August recess, we’re publishing a piece every day in a blog series highlighting “fast facts” about the failings of our state’s public records law. It is our hope to keep the story focused on why action needs to be taken as soon as possible and to urge a vote on Bill H. 3665, an act to improve public records, in both the State House of Representatives and Senate before they leave Beacon Hill for a month. To read the full series and more from this campaign, go here. To petition your legislator in support, act here!

Here is “Fast Fact” #1:

While we in Massachusetts often pride ourselves on being ahead of the curve on politics and policy issues, we are national laggards when it comes to open government. A recent Boston Globe expose reveals that our state’s public records law is among the worst in the country. We were even ranked 49th out of the 50 states in the time it took agencies to answer public records requests filed through Muckrock, a Boston-based news startup that helps people obtain government documents. While Massachusetts law requires state agencies to make a substantive response within 10 days, Muckrock found they actually took 82 days on average to respond to requests filed by its users. Only Hawaii took longer.

This is unacceptable, especially since Massachusetts was a pioneer of freedom of information laws when ours was first enacted in the 1970s. Unfortunately, while many states strengthened their sunshine laws after Watergate and in the decades since, our law has not been substantially updated since 1973.

If you agree that 2015 is the year it’s time to finally fix public records in Massachusetts, tell your legislator to vote before the August recess now!