Time to End MA State Legislature’s Exemption from Public Records Law

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

The purpose of transparency laws is to promote more effective, accountable and responsive government. Engaged citizens are essential for our form of government to thrive over the long-term. According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “the founding fathers of our nation strove to develop an open government formed on the principles of democracy and public participation. An informed citizen is better equipped to participate in the process.” Yet, despite this paramount need for the long-term health of the Commonwealth, our transparency laws remain deeply flawed.

The Public Records Law expressly states that the law “shall not apply to the records of the general court” Meaning the state legislature “exempted” itself from a most important law. Although the Supreme Judicial Court upheld the application of the legislature’s blanket exemption, it has never ruled specifically on the constitutionality of the provisions. We at Pioneer Institute believe the legislature’s exemption to this law is unconstitutional. The legislature’s exemption from public records law undermines the rights reserved to the people in the state Constitution and makes it impossible for citizens to uphold their end of the bargain by being engaged in the democratic process.

Read our Public Testimony, delivered by Mary Connaughton, Pioneer’s Director of Government Transparency, on May 4th, 2018 before the Special Legislative Commission on Public Records.

Recent Posts:

Putting in the Extra Hours: The Spike in Mass. Department of Public Health Overtime Pay during COVID-19

During the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic, Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) payroll data presented a 29.09% increase in the average employee’s overtime pay from the previous year. Pioneer wanted to dig deeper into the Department’s compensation trends to put the $5M bump in 2020 DPH overtime pay into perspective.

A Rare Victory for Transparency. Massachusetts Could Use Many More.

/
Massachusetts is in the midst of wrongdoing on an unprecedented scale. Thousands of convictions had to be vacated because of the corruption of state drug laboratory chemists. Thousands more convictions were vacated because of the combined misconduct of the chemists and prosecutors. And still more will be vacated because of the Commonwealth’s repeated and deliberate failures to investigate the extent to which its evidence was compromised.

COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

Pioneer is proud to present a new vaccine tracker, the newest tool in our COVID-19 tracking project. Pioneer distilled the vaccination data down to those who are either fully vaccinated or partially vaccinated, by all the demographic categories published by the DPH. Use the new tool below to compare rates among groups, by municipality and by county. We will update the data every week.

Doctor Heal Thyself: Insider’s Prescription For Healthcare Reform

Host Joe Selvaggi talks with surgeon and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Marty Makary about the healthcare reform themes in The Price We Pay, the 2020 Business Book of the Year.  The discussion covers the value of price transparency, provider accountability, and performance information to drive better medical outcomes and improve doctor and patient satisfaction.

Struggling For Sunshine: Transparency’s Power To Keep Leaders Accountable

/
Host Joe Selvaggi talks with Pioneer Institute's Mary Z. Connaughton about the value of transparency and Pioneer’s extensive work to provide greater access to legislative and policy information to hold elected officials accountable and build trust in our state government. Read Pioneer Institute's Sunshine Week Transparency Resolutions.

Pioneer Institute’s 2021 Government Transparency Resolutions: Sunshine Week Edition

As it does each year, Pioneer shares the resolutions it hopes state leaders will adopt to bring government actions into better focus and invigorate our democracy with heightened public engagement. As the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis noted, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”

Massachusetts is in the middle of a budget crisis. So why is it still subsidizing out-of-state horse owners?

/
In 2021, the Massachusetts legislature will consider raising…

Survey: Consumers Want Healthcare Price Information, But Few Realize It’s Available

Great strides have been made to increase healthcare price transparency through online cost estimator tools and a state law that requires providers to give out price information. Yet despite the eagerness of consumers to access prices and out-of-pocket costs, many are unaware that such information is available and don’t know how to access it, according to survey results published by Pioneer Institute.

Clearing Boston’s Throat: What the I-90 Allston Project Portends for Metro West Commuters

/
Join hosts Joe Selvaggi and Pioneer Institute’s Mary Connaughton, and guest, former Mass. Secretary of Transportation Jim Aloisi, as they discuss the I90 Allston Multimodal Project, its long-term benefits, and their concerns for the metro west commuters and communities during the project’s decade-long construction.

In light of COVID-19, Massachusetts should rethink its convention center bureaucracy

/
Right before commercial real estate values in the U.S. started…

COVID-19 Transparency – A Step Backwards

/
Massachusetts has unfortunately taken the backwards step of ending its longstanding daily reporting of something basic and important: the virus’s cumulative impact on various age groups.

Executive branch overreach, blanket orders having harmful effects

/
At the outset of the pandemic, limited knowledge and the need to mitigate risk understandably led to political overreach. At this point in the disaster response, though, we are far better at distinguishing fact from fiction and policies that have worked from those that have not.

Study: Shift from Highest-Priced Healthcare Providers Would Generate Tremendous Savings

Consumers in just one Massachusetts county could have saved nearly $22 million in a single year and $116.6 million adjusted for inflation over four years if they switched from using the most expensive providers for 16 shoppable healthcare services to those whose prices were closer to average, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

HHS COVID Funding Tracker

As of July, the Feds have distributed $86.7 billion to medical providers, of which $2.3 billion came to Massachusetts. Pioneer’s new HHS COVID-19 Funding app shows who and how much, from the $1 sent to American Current Care of Massachusetts, to the $418,034,675 sent to the MA Department of Public Health. We also break down the distribution by city or town.

Open Letter: COVID-19 Study and Recommendations Task Force Established Pursuant to Massachusetts Bill H.4672

Pioneer hopes the members of this important task force will be appointed as soon as possible and that they will look into recommendations to address Covid-19 among the aged and in the state’s nursing homes. Read our Open Letter.

New Pioneer Institute Hotline Allows Public to Report Violations of Open Meeting Law

/
With most public meetings taking place remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pioneer Institute has unveiled an online hotline that allows members of the public to report potential violations of the Commonwealth’s and other states' Open Meeting Law.

Pioneer Institute Looks Ahead to the Protection of Civil Liberties

Challenges to Americans’ civil liberties have increased in recent years.  History teaches us that during national emergencies governments are even more likely to overstep and violate constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. To address this concern, Pioneer Institute has created “Respect My Rights,” a web-based hotline to which citizens can submit complaints and descriptions of violations they have experienced.

In The Era Of COVID-19, Mass. Needs To Get Long-Term Care Right

/
This op-ed originally appeared in WGBH News. In much of the…