It is time to bring our public records law into the 21st century with the substantial reforms contained in H.3665. Those reforms include:
· The appointment of a public records officer in each agency who will be responsible for the prompt delivery of all requests, bringing Massachusetts in line with best practices to ensure that citizens know who to contact with requests.
· A requirement that electronic records be provided electronically, in a searchable format. Or they could be posted online, reducing the work and cost required to print or fulfill individual requests while making the records far more accessible and useful.
· The prohibition of excessive fees by requiring records be affordable, with fees that reflect actual costs and don’t inhibit access.
· Improved compliance. Currently there is no practical method to ensure compliance with the law. Enforcement falls to private citizens or organizations suing to get the information they need. This requires significant effort and expense and is too much to ask of the public. The bills increase compliance by allowing courts to award attorneys’ fees to wronged requestors, putting Massachusetts in line with the 46 other states which already do so.