Entries by Mary Connaughton

Top 10 Government Transparency Resolutions for 2018

We hear the word transparency a lot these days. Whether it’s the public demanding it or public figures claiming to embody it, transparency is rightly viewed as an admirable pursuit. When it comes to government, transparency fosters civic engagement and promotes public trust. Openness in government is the cornerstone of a healthy, vibrant democracy. In […]

Beacon Hill Needs to Get This Right – Right Now

No one said it better than Justice Louis Brandeis. “Sunshine is said to be the best of disinfectants, electric light the most efficient policeman.”  If today’s story on former State Senator Brian Joyce, indicted today for allegedly collecting about $1 million in bribes and kickbacks, isn’t a wake-up call for the legislators to fix the […]

Op-ed: Neglect creates pension tsunami

A version of this op-ed appeared in The Berkshire Eagle, The Salem News, The Gloucester Times, the Patriot Ledger, The Brockton Enterprise, and The New Bedford Standard-Times. BOSTON — Moody’s Investors Service estimates that total U.S. state and local government pension unfunded liability will reach $1.75 trillion this year and the commonwealth is hardly immune […]

Sunshine Week 2017: Highlights from Pioneer’s Government Transparency Team

It’s Sunshine Week once again! While it may fall close to spring break, it means something even better than Coppertone and Daytona Beach. Each year during Sunshine Week, Pioneer reviews the government transparency work it has completed through the year to highlight efforts to bring greater public accountability to Massachusetts. Our objective is to have […]

The Clock is Ticking…….

The clock is ticking towards December 30, 2017.  As part of the 2016 public records reform legislation, An Act to Improve Public Records, a special legislative committee was established to “examine the accessibility of information concerning the legislative process of the general court and the expansion of the definition of public records.” The establishment of […]

Op-ed: Justification For 40% Legislative Leadership Raises Is Political Voodoo

When doing the people’s will is secondary to legislators’ self-interest, how strong is our democracy? The state Legislature is on the verge of overriding the Governor’s veto of legislation that includes sizable pay raises for state and legislative leaders. Their actions on this front will answer the democracy question. Since legislators can’t raise their base pay, the hikes are limited to leadership positions in the form of increased legislative stipends. Base pay increases are formulaic and tied to the state’s median household […]

Our Government Transparency Resolutions for 2017

Although transparency was the expression of choice on Beacon Hill in 2016, the year fell short of what could have been a transformative period of government openness. Long overdue public records law reform was the most dramatic action taken by the Legislature in this vein, but compromise ultimately weakened what otherwise could have been very […]

Public Records Reform: Our Take

The public records bill that was signed into law by Governor Baker last week and takes effect January 1, 2017 contains significant improvements to existing law and will no doubt improve the Commonwealth’s poor national rankings for government transparency.  The legislators who crafted it have done the state a service. But there is more work […]

OpEd: Shine a light upon MBTA pension fund

By Mary Z. Connaughton and Charles Chieppo Guest Columnists Originally published in The Berkshire Eagle, the Milford Daily News, New Bedford Standard-Times, and The Lowell Sun. It would be easy just to shake your head and turn the page upon learning that the MBTA Retirement Fund (MBTARF) is underfunded by nearly $868 million. Unfortunately, you cannot. Every […]

Sunshine Week 2016: Highlights from Pioneer’s Government Transparency Team

Each Sunshine Week, Pioneer shares highlights of its government transparency work completed over the year. Our objective is to have Massachusetts rank among the nation’s most transparent states. It’s a formidable goal because the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press currently ranks our state at or near rock bottom in the nation for government transparency. […]

Our Government Transparency Resolutions for 2016

While it’s possible that 2016 will see an historic surge in policies and laws that promote transparency in Massachusetts, the odds are we won’t see a quantum leap. But as we dig deeper into the draft of the public records reform bill released by the Senate yesterday, we are encouraged that, after decades of inaction, Beacon […]

Massachusetts Needs Its Own CBO

State Senator Jamie Eldridge is on to something.  The State House News Service recently reported that he filed a bill to bring greater transparency to the legislative process by establishing an agency similar to the Congressional Budget Office to put a concrete price tag on legislation before it is passed.  This is an idea Pioneer […]

A Step Forward on Meaningful Public Records Reform?

Yesterday’s Boston Globe editorial has it right – the time for the legislature to act on meaningful public records reform is now, while at least a modicum of momentum remains for its enactment.  Waiting much longer likely signals the bill’s death knell. Sadly, though, if a bill does emerge from the House Ways and Means […]

Our Letter to the Open Meeting Advisory Commission

Public trust and citizen engagement is fundamental in a healthy government.  Transparency engenders both. The Massachusetts legislature is one of the minority of state legislatures in the country where open meeting law doesn’t apply.  In fact, according to a 2011 study by the Reporters’ Committee of Freedom of the Press, it’s one of only 19 […]

6 Ways to Improve Government Transparency

Mary Connaughton, Pioneer Institute’s Director of Government Transparency, submitted testimony on May 26, 2015, before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, regarding government transparency on Bills H2755, H2804, S1700, H2732, H2758, H2772, H2822, H2717, S1633, S1641, S1676, S1638, H2802 (all of which advance government transparency). Download her testimony below:

There Is Little Appeal to the Current Use of Binding Arbitration at the T

Eliminating final and binding arbitration at the MBTA is key part of Governor Baker’s reform proposal.  His bill does not call for ending collective bargaining and arbitration at the T, but instead for applying the same collective bargaining/arbitration law that applies to other public employee unions at state agencies and municipalities, including at police and […]

Connaughton, Sivolella: Challenging the Legislature’s Secrecy

By Mary Z. Connaughton and John Sivolella Guest Columnists This article originally appeard in the Milford Daily News. Read it in its entirety. Posted Apr. 19, 2015 at 7:13 AM There is a lot of justifiable talk about the need for government transparency these days, but the concept is far from new. In fact, the […]

Public Left in Dark on Carmen’s Union Contract

Background Over the past two months, Pioneer Institute has focused substantial resources on analyzing the MBTA’s operations, finances, pension system and governance (leadership and accountability).  A key piece of our work has included comparisons of the Authority to other American transit systems.  We have provided comparisons to all systems, but have focused on like or […]

And What About the T’s Retirement Costs?

Pension and other post-employment benefit (OPEB) costs significantly impact the MBTA’s financial position.  There’s been much talk about the T’s retirement costs but relatively little about how those costs and their funding rank among other large transit systems.  The MBTA has not set assets aside to fund OPEB obligations and is underfunding its pension costs. […]

Projections Matter and the MCCA Got it All Wrong

The Boston Business Journal was dead-on when Craig Douglas wrote, “the BCEC’s expansion plan is a case in point for why Massachusetts is in such a financial quagmire today. It’s had virtually no relevant financial vetting. Its cost projections are Big Dig-esque.” His case in point was the recent room-night figures reported in the Massachusetts Convention […]

Pioneer’s Transparency Update: Sunshine Week Edition

To some, it may seem insignificant in that police departments have wide discretion in responding to public records requests, or that a school district can charge exorbitant fees to the public for document requests. Perhaps it doesn’t matter that state agencies routinely respond to public records requests well after the mandated ten days, or that our […]

Pioneer’s Transparency Update: “Sunshine Week” Edition

While sunshine in government operations should be a 365-day calling, the dedication of this week gives focus to the necessity of transparency in a healthy democracy, the success of which is dependent upon actively engaged citizens. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Truth never damages a cause that is just.”  That statement that should apply to all […]