Local journalism and transparency laws are focus of Massachusetts Sunshine Week event

The New England First Amendment Coalition and the Medfield Insider, a local news organization, will host a panel discussion about local journalism and the need for transparency in Massachusetts. The Sunshine Week 2021 event is 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time, Friday, March 19. Panelists include media attorney Peter Caruso, Boston Globe health reporter Kay Lazar, Report…

More

Advocates press Massachusetts lawmakers to work in public

Open government advocates on Wednesday called on lawmakers to make more government offices subject to the state’s public records laws. 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. That has led open government groups and others to consistently label the…

More

Massachusetts police abuse exemption in public-records law, reform panel is told

A number of exemptions allow public agencies to keep secret routine documents that are easily accessible in most other states. Now, for the first time in more than four decades, Massachusetts lawmakers are in the midst of revamping the state’s weak public records law. As part of the overhaul, a state working group has been charged with reviewing and evaluating the way in which law enforcement agencies have used public records exemptions and will recommend changes to the Legislature by year’s end.

More

Massachusetts: New website will detail state payroll, spending data

Massachusetts’ notoriously opaque state government is about to get more transparent, with the launch of a website detailing state payroll and spending data.

Comptroller Thomas G. Shack III says his office’s site, dubbed “CTHRU” and set to go live Sept. 14, will give the news media, public interest groups, and others an important tool to uncover waste and fraud.

Continue…

More

Should all voter addresses be publicly listed?

As the presidential election approaches in November, Secretary of State William F. Galvin is pushing a proposal that would allow victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to register to vote without making their addresses public in voter rolls.

“They shouldn’t have to give up the right to vote to be safe,” Galvin said last Wednesday in a telephone interview. “We’ve had many inquiries, especially this year as the presidential elections have been ramping up.”

More

Massachusetts committee will debate public records law changes in public

Adopting a spirit perhaps befitting the first major overhaul of a public records law, six lawmakers reconciling House and Senate versions of the legislation plan to keep their meetings accessible to the public as they solicit commentary from interested parties.

The conference committee met for the first time Wednesday afternoon in a backroom off the House chamber where Rep. Peter Kocot invited advocates to share their thoughts on the differing bills (H 3858/S 2120).

More

Group: Massachusetts lawmakers’ open meeting exemption unconstitutional

The Massachusetts Legislature’s exemption from the requirements of the state’s open meetings law is unconstitutional, a conservative-leaning think tank said Thursday.

Attorney General Maura Healey declined to wade into the dispute, however. 

The Boston-based Pioneer Institute said the self-exemption restricts public access to certain legislative meetings and undermines the constitutional tenet that government be accountable for its actions.

More

Editorial: Massachusetts Senate should toughen public records law

The Massachusetts Senate plans to debate legislation that ideally should be aimed at giving the state’s public records law – one of the weakest in the nation – a much-needed backbone transplant.

Last fall, the Massachusetts House approved its version of the bill, but changes rendered the final result anemic. The Senate, which recorded 64 amendments to its own bill this week, now has a chance to make things right.

More