Healey: Legislature's records should be public

03.18.2015

This originally ran in the State House News Service and on the Sentinel and Enterprise's website

BOSTON -- As "Sunshine Week" draws attention to the state's public records laws, Attorney General Maura Healey on Wednesday said she's committed to reform and would consider proposals to force the Legislature to make its records public.

Lawmakers for years have defended their exemption as necessary to facilitate open debate among elected members of the House and Senate. While allowing that there are "absolutely valid exemptions" from public record disclosure, Healey said during an interview on WGBH radio that she'd like to review the blanket exemption for the Legislature and judicial branch.

"Candidly, whenever you see an entire public body exempt from something like a public records law I have concerns. I have questions. So this is something I want to look at," Healey said.

"Candidly, whenever you see an entire public body exempt from something like a public records law I have concerns. I have questions. So this is something I want to look at," Healey said.

Without being specific, Healey said she wants to work with lawmakers to update the state's public records law. Rep. Peter Kocot, of Northampton, and Sen. Jason Lewis, of Winchester, have filed legislation that would provide for greater electronic access to records, require agencies to pay legal fees when they withhold records in violation of the law, and lower costs that can be charged for records. Secretary of State William Galvin has also suggested a ballot referendum to give his office greater enforcement authority.

"My perspective on this is transparency is so important. Our public records laws need to be updated, they need to be modernized. They need to be made to work in a way that works for people that really shows people that government is here to serve them," Healey told Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, the hosts of "Boston Public Radio."

Healey also said she believed Galvin's decision that would allow police departments to withhold the names of officers arrested for drunk driving is a correct interpretation of the current law. The attorney general plans to go to Northampton on Saturday to give a presentation for local officials on compliance with open meeting law. Her office is also this week publishing a new guide on open meetings.


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