In anticipation of Sunshine Week (March 13-19), Associated Press surveyed all 50 state capitols to gauge their openness to the press and public. The results weren't encouraging.
AP asked state leaders to send in a week's worth of emails and daily schedules. The request was met with more denials than approvals, with most of the denials made on the basis that the legislative leaders and governors are not subject to their state's public records laws. (AP reported that Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and state Senate President Stan Rosenberg sent along the requested emails and schedules). This is a dismal response from what AP observes are often called "the people's house."
The Massachusetts Legislature has before it proposed laws strengthening the state's weak and unenforced public records laws by closing loopholes, limiting exorbitant fees and establishing deadlines. The laws have already been watered down to appease special interests, however, and there is no guarantee what will emerge from committee.
Merits aside, the reform proposals still exempt the governor and lawmakers to the public records rules they require other officials to follow. A series of Massachusetts governors and legislative leaders have agreed they should not be subject to the law, although none have offered a good explanation as to why. Our public records laws will be inadequate as long as top elected officials are above them.