Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tarr Seeks to Strengthen Public Records Law

This week the Senate will debate changes to our state's public records law, the first major reform since 1973. I have offered some changes to make the new law stronger and more effective.

Boston- Seeking to strengthen the state’s public records law to provide increased public access to government information, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R – Gloucester) has filed a number of amendments to the public records legislation (S. 2120) released last Thursday by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. The bill is expected to be taken up in the Senate formal session on Thursday.

“Civic engagement and the strength of our democracy depend on the public availability and accessibility of information that can foster understanding, inform decisions and empower oversight,” said Tarr, who added that, “passing strong, workable and practical legislation to modernize and strengthen our public records law is and should be a legislative priority.”
Toward that end, Tarr today filed amendments that would, among other things:
  • Require the display of the cost of taxes on diesel fuel and gasoline on the pumps where they are dispensed.
  • Establish a Public Records Assistance Fund for grants to municipalities for the acquisition of information technology, training and education to boost records compliance
  • Strengthen the Attorney General’s ability to compel compliance with records requests by including language that allows the AG to require compliance even in situations where an agency or municipality did not respond to or acknowledge a public records request
  • Make public information pertaining to the MBTA pension fund
  • Include contracts and invoices over $500,000.00 as a part of the Massachusetts open checkbook system, which would provide clarity and information to the public on the expenses of the state government
  • Require signs to be posted in all stations and terminals displaying a percentage breakdown of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) sources of funding, including state subsidies and fare collections.
“The Senate Committee on Ways and Means has provided an important start to the process of making information more available,” said Tarr, “and these amendments can make the bill better and more effective.”
The text of Senate Bill 2120