The Massachusetts Senate has done a far better job than the House in reforming the state's inexcusably weak public records law. That is the version that should go to Governor Baker's desk.
The House addressed the issue first, but caved in the face of objections from the Massachusetts Municipal Association, which has failed to explain why its members can't comply with the same regulations and deadlines their counterparts across the nation comply with. The Senate has held firm.
The Senate bill enables citizens to recover their legal fees when forced to sue for the release of public records, while the House throws the issue into the court system. While both bills limit the fees state officials can charge for making paper copies, the Senate extends the cap to local communities. The Senate bill has a shorter deadline for compliance with records requests and does not allow indefinite extensions, as does the House. Sadly, under both bills, Massachusetts would remain the only state in which all three branches of government are exempt from the public records law.
The state has a long way to go on government transparency, but the Senate pushes it well down the road. Before the bills go to conference committee, Governor Baker should back transparency by endorsing the Senate legislation.