My home state of Massachusetts can claim to be the first in many things in this country. The Boston Commons was the first public park. Boston Latin, not surprisingly also in Boston, was the first public school. Boston is also home to the first free municipal library and the first underground metro. The first modern World Series of baseball was played in Boston. These are just a few examples of the many ‘firsts’ that Massachusetts can claim.
However, there’s one troubling area where Massachusetts lags nearly all 50 States - public access to government records.
With any luck this week, Massachusetts will become the 47th state to pass a bill that updates Massachusetts’ antiquated public access laws by, among other things, requiring courts to award attorney’s fees to those wrongly denied access to public records.
The proposed bill also sets clear timetables for agencies and localities to produce records and would limit to $25 an hour the fees that can be charged for responding to public record requests. It also requires agencies to make documents available electronically — also further cutting down on costs to respond to requests. And eventually, it requires state agencies to post the most frequently requested records online.
While opponents fear the burden that this law may place on city, town and court clerks, they really have nothing to fear at all. With all the new advancements made in text analysis technologies, there are now systems available that can nearly fully automate the tasks — classifying, indexing and redacting documents —that previously stood in the way of providing access to records in response to information requests.
Learn more about how your department can leverage these technologies to not only relieve the burden on your team to comply with Sunshine Laws in your state but also to better serve public interest.
About the Author: Greg Gies
For 20 years in the software industry, Greg Gies has been helping businesses, government agencies and healthcare organizations achieve their goals and carry out their missions by making better use of information and automating business processes. Greg has held positions in sales, product management and marketing and holds an MBA from Babson College.