SOSMass

Save Our State of Massachusetts

ACLU & Public Records

How often does this happen, i.e., being in lockstep with the ACLU, [American Civil Liberties Union]???

The ACLU is backing a pair of bills, H.1575/S.1736 and H.1576/S.1737 (THIS session) relative to public record laws that will bring Massachusetts in line with 45 other states.  Those of you who have attempted to seek public records know that it varies whether or not you get these records in a timely fashion, or at all, and it seems the more important the information, the bigger the roadblocks.  The bills being introduced will make access to information less costly by allowing courts to award attorney’s fees when access to public records is wrongfully denied.  That alone might just put more teeth into public requests for information, and promote greater government responsiveness and transparency.  The ACLU also seeks to bring the law into the electronic age by taking advantage of technology.  According to the ACLU, Massachusetts hasn’t updated their public record laws in any meaningful way since 1973.

Writing to the state Senate President, House Speaker, and your own state senator and representative has been made easy by the ACLU, (see below), and they ask for your support.  Please take the time to fill out the form or contact your State Legislators for this very important issue that will serve to make and keep government open and transparent.  (If you experience any difficulty using the form below, go to this link:  https://secure.aclu.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=4207 )

Recipients

  • Representative Robert A. DeLeo
  • Senator Therese ‘Terry’ Murray
  • Targeted recipients based on your address

Message

Update the public records law in 2012

Dear [Decision Maker],

You and I both believe in democracy. Freedom of information–the right to know how our government works–is essential to keeping our democracy healthy and strong. Unfortunately, however, the Massachusetts public records law is failing us. I’m writing to ask you to update this law for the 21st century.

* Personalize your message

In theory,
the state public records law–like the federal Freedom of Information
Act–is one of the most important tools journalists, public interest
organizations, and ordinary citizens have to gain a window into state
and local government. In practice, however, public information is often
inaccessible due to technological barriers and exorbitant costs.The law hasn’t been substantially updated since 1973–four decades ago.
It doesn’t address the advances of the digital age, like email and the
internet, let alone take advantage of that technology to promote
transparency.

Also, while some agencies respond to requests for public records quickly
and thoroughly, others do not. And the law gives them no incentive to
do so. Forty-five–nine out of ten!–other states and the federal
government allow courts to award attorneys’ fees when people are wrongly
denied access to public records. It’s time for Massachusetts to catch
up and take this sensible step.Please pass H.1575/S.1736 and H.1576/S.1737 this session. This pair of
bills would bring the law into the electronic age, make access to
information less costly, and allow courts to provide a check on the
system when officials block access to public information.

It’s time to turn freedom of information into a meaningful right and bring the Massachusetts public records law into the 21st century.Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]


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One comment on “ACLU & Public Records

  1. neenergyobserver
    April 15, 2012

    Sometimes the ACLU lives up to their name, not often enough but, sometimes.

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