Massachusetts has a long history of being the nation’s leader. Ever since we incited the American Revolution, a tradition of excellence has pervaded the commonwealth. We were the first state to legalize gay marriage. We consistently rank as the top state in the nation in education. We were the first state in the nation to offer health insurance for all its citizens. Massachusetts is a leader on so many fronts.
But there is one area in which we do not lead: transparency in state government. Our state government is just one of four in the country (the others being Oklahoma, Iowa and Minnesota) where the legislature has exempted itself from public records laws. In 2015, the independent nonprofit Center for Public Integrity did a comprehensive study of the commonwealth and awarded it an ‘F’ in public access to information (40th out of 50 states).
Our local leaders in the State House can be a part of the solution to change this discouraging ranking. At the beginning of each legislative session the House of Representatives votes on a slew of anti-transparency measures. These are some of the measures that our representatives currently support:
The State House of Representatives is not required to follow the Open Meeting Law. This provides convenient isolation from public criticism as they do the people’s work.
Our representative voted in January 2019 to reject a measure that would give representatives 72 hours to read bills (that can be hundreds of pages long) before voting.
Our representative voted in January 2019 to reject another measure that would give representatives 30 minutes to read amendments before voting.
Our representative voted in January 2019 to reject a measure that mandates all hearing testimony within all committees be made public, as well as all roll call votes within all committees.
Why are we a leader in hiding state government proceedings from the people of the commonwealth?
As we welcome a new year and a new speaker of the house, we have an opportunity to change the culture of secrecy on Beacon Hill. For the towns of Hopkinton, Holliston and Southborough, Rep. [Carolyn] Dykema has the power to change her past votes on these transparency measures and usher in a new era of accountability in our state government. Massachusetts can lead again, this time on the issue of public transparency and government accountability to the people.
— Bri Mirabile, Hopkinton
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