The MNPA’s op-ed calling for the legislature to act on open meeting reform appears in today’s Boston Herald: No Democracy in the Dark.
An editorial in today’s New Bedford Standard-Times calls for legislative action on a bill to reform the state’s Open Meeting Law. The bill, crafted by Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, is based on a package of bills originally filed by the MNPA. The editorial says:
“The primary beneficiary of the Cabral bill is the ordinary citizen who relies on open government to be sure that taxpayer money is well spent by elected and appointed officials. Citizens who would like to see this reform bill become law should contact their local legislator and Rep. DeLeo, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, to push for action this session.”
More of Sunshine Week coverage by Massachusetts newspapers:
- Berkshire Eagle: Age of terror ushers in age of D.C. secrecy
- Berkshire Eagle: Helpful Web sites to access public information
- Berkshire Eagle: How to file an FOIA request
- Berkshire Eagle: Clouds over Sunshine Week
- Berkshire Eagle: Town’s mea culpa falls short
- Berkshire Eagle: Records law gives access
- North Adams Transcript: Overhaul the state’s open meeting law
- North Adams Transcript: Open meeting law poised for change
- The Daily Item: State rep. seeks Open Meeting Law reform
- The Republican: Proposed bill expands open meeting law
- The Republican: Citizens demand open records
- The Republican: Publishers push state ‘shield law’
- The Republican: Getting data often a long, slow process
- The Republican: Records crucial to terror probe
- Worcester Telegram: New open meeting bill widens violator penalties
- Lowell Sun: Legislation would overhaul state’s Open Meeting Law
- Daily News Tribune: Officials have open door when it comes to public records
- Metrowest Daily News: Reporters seek shield law
- Cape Cod Times: Constitutional freedom debate in constant flux
The Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association has voted to endorse the Massachusetts Free Flow of Information Act. The bill (Senate Docket 2406) would protect members of the news media in Massachusetts from being compelled to reveal sources, notes and other materials used in their reporting.
MNPA President Kay Berenson, publisher of The Recorder newspaper in Greenfield, said, “This bill is about recognizing and protecting the vital role journalists play in protecting the public’s access to the truth about government, corporations and other important institutions. I encourage legislators to pass it.”
Senate President Robert E. Travaglini submitted the bill in October. It was drafted by an ad hoc committee of news media representatives chaired by Charles J. Kravetz, vice president of news at NECN. MNPA members who served on the committee were Alfred S. Larkin Jr., executive vice president of The Boston Globe, Larry A. McDermott, publisher of The Republican, and Robert J. Ambrogi, MNPA executive director.
Based on bills proposed by the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Associaton, state Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral (D-New Bedford), chairman of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight, yesterday unveiled major legislation to reform Massachusetts’ open meeting law. “Today, in an age of government spying, secret wiretapping and increasing government secrecy, we must renew our commitment to openness,” Rep Cabral said.
The reform legislation has five main initiatives:
– It would strengthen the language of the open meeting law to include current communication technology. Real-time electronic communication between government bodies would be subject to the same rules as meetings held in person.
– It would create an Open Meeting Law Board to oversee complaints and violations of the open meeting law and oversee a new Office of Government Accountability, housed in the Office of the Attorney General, to provide increased resources to investigating violations.
– For the first time in this state, it would impose civil fines on individual members of boards who violate the law.
– Boards subject to the open meeting law would be required to post meeting agendas as part of required meeting notices.
– It would close some exceptions to the current law which allow for closed executive sessions.
The bill, based on legislation filed last year by the MNPA, has not been assigned a number.
More Sunshine Week coverage from Massachusetts newspapers:
- The Republican: The hard fight for freedom of information
- Metrowest Daily News: Open Meeting Law changes eyed
- Boston Herald: State public records chief vents ‘frustration’ with AG
- Berkshire Eagle: Records keeper opens up
- Metrowest Daily News: Public records czar wants more power
- The Republican: Police finalist list kept secret
- The Recorder: Newspapers want to put teeth into Massachusetts’ open meeting law
- Standard-Times: Our View: Sunshine Needed in Marion
- Cape Cod Times: Open Documents Force Government to Come Clean
- Cape Cod Times: Bill would fine individuals for violating open meeting law
- Cape Cod Times: Government Slows Actions on Public Records Requests
- Lowell Sun: Creeping Secrecy
- Eagle-Tribune: Everyone has a stake in fight for open meetings and records
- Eagle-Tribune (corrected link): Democracy works best when the sun shines on machinery of government
See also: Round-up of Sunshine Week coverage.
From The Standard-Times yesterday: OUR VIEW: Put teeth into Open Meeting Law.
From today’s MetroWest Daily News:
“Some reforms backed by newspaper advocates intended to thwart local and state boards from going behind closed doors to decide public matters may get a boost from lawmakers.
“The co-chairman of a legislative committee is pushing a bill to overhaul the state Open Meeting Law for the first time in three decades. The law was designed to make sure most meetings of governmental boards and committees are open to the public, with just a few specific exemptions.”
Today marks the start of Sunshine Week and several Massachusetts newspapers marked the day with reporting and opinion:
- Berkshire Eagle: Openness begins at local level
- The Patriot Ledger: Local Violations: Not so open meetings
- Sentinel & Enterprise: Open Meeting Law may get a modern makeover
- Patriot Ledger: Sh-sh-sh: Towns keeping secrets from you
- Metrowest Daily News: Reporters seek shield law
- The Republican: Public access falters
- The Republican: Sunlight continues to be the best disinfectant
- Telegram & Gazette: Open Meeting Law Challenged by New Technologies
- Eagle-Tribune: Democracy Works Best When Sun Shines on Machinery of Government
- Cape Cod Times: Requesting public records?
- Cape Cod Times: Study: Secrecy Trend Sweeps Nation
- Cape Cod Times: Q&A with Tom Curley, AP president
- Lowell Sun: We know more about Bart than about our rights. Is that right?
- Lowell Sun: Let the Sunshine In.
From the Sentinel & Enterprise:
“Schools’ Secret Session Notes Under Wraps
“By Kyle Alspach
“FITCHBURG — The School Committee met in secret sessions eight times in 2005, but has yet to release any records of those meetings to the public.
“The Massachusetts Open Meeting Law allows public boards to meet privately about some issues.
“But the records may only remain secret as long as ‘publication may defeat the lawful purposes’ of the session, according to the law.”