Massachusetts public records bill does little to open access

A Massachusetts House committee is set to unveil a bill that would allow those who are thwarted in seeking public records to collect attorney fees, but the measure does nothing to strengthen what is largely viewed as one of the nation’s weakest public records laws and, in fact, could make it harder to get records in some cases.

The bill being circulated to committee members for approval, which is slated to go for debate before the full House Wednesday, also drops fines from the original sponsors’ bills against individuals who do not comply with the law and, instead, leaves it to a judge to levy a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 against the agency or municipality.

The measure would also allow agencies and communities to request time extensions if they deem the request to be heavily involved, delays that could go up to 75 days after an initial request. Continue…