Massachusetts advocates push to open Legislature’s records

BOSTON — Deliberations on the $41 billion state budget are held in secret. Committee hearings and party caucuses on bills affecting millions of people are closed to the press and public. Requests for documents and information are routinely denied.

Massachusetts is the only state where the Legislature, governor’s office and judiciary all claim to be exempt from the state’s public records law, which has led open government groups and others to consistently label its First Amendment protections the weakest in the nation.

A legislative commission created as part of an overhaul of the state’s public records law in 2016 is studying whether those exemptions should be lifted. But the panel of lawmakers has only met twice in the past year, and it recently extended a mandated deadline to make recommendations.

“Our hope is that this commission doesn’t turn out to be a measure to placate public records advocates, but that it comes out with some strong recommendations that are actually acted on,” said Justin Silverman, executive director of the New England First Amendment Coalition. Read more…