The Senate will be debating amendments to its version the Public Records Reform bill tomorrow at the State House. The Senate’s bill is far superior to the House version but still has a few flaws. There would still be costs charged for producing documents and there are loop holes that can prevent requesters from recouping their lawyers fees when making an appeal.

There are several amendments being proposed that will help improve the bill and several that would make it worse. PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATORS NOW AND TELL THEM TO WHICH AMENDMENTS YOU SUPPORT AND WHICH YOU DON’T.
 
Gavi Wolfe from the ACLU of Massachusetts shared with us a script you can use when calling your senator. It includes the amendments we support and don’t support.
 
Phone Script in Support of Public Records Reform
 
[Find your state Senator at www.wheredoivotema.com.
 
Hi, my name is __________ and I’m calling from [city/town] in support of strong public records reform.
 
I’m calling to ask Senator ________ to support amendments to improve access to public records in 3 ways:
 
1. make records more affordable
 
2. guarantee attorney fees when officials deny records until they are taken to court
 
3. increase electronic records access
 
Please ask Senator _______ to support these specific amendments: 25 & 35 (affordability), 22 (attorney fees), 21 & 51 (electronic access).
 
I am also hoping that the Senator will oppose all efforts to weaken the bill, including by extending the time for responding to records requests — Amendments 10, 11, 12, and 57.
 
__________________________________________________
 
And if you are more of the email type, feel free to use this template SPJNE Board Member Bill Marcus created to contact your senator.
 
Hon. Senator ________,
 
Thank you for your consideration of my position on the following amendments to the Public Records Reform Bill:
 
We support these specific amendments: 25 & 35 (affordability), 22 (attorney fees), 21 & 51 (electronic access).
I am also hoping you will oppose all efforts to weaken the bill, including by extending the time for responding to records requests — Amendments 10, 11, 12, and 57.
 
Strengthening the section on attorney fees is our gravest concern. While the Senate bill would require courts to award attorney fees if litigation leads to a judicial order or settlement (with some exceptions), attorney fees would be merely optional in cases where people are forced to go to court only to have the officials turn over the records at the 11th hour. In other states where attorney fees are optional, they are rarely if ever awarded.
 
Here in Massachusetts members of the press write, photograph, and voice news for over a hundred local, national, and international media outlets. A lot of media members are often bullied by municipal officials, when, in the process of trying to do their job, they ask for records they need to write a local story. The current law’s failure to require attorney fees to be paid to winners in court battles, in particular, insulates local officials from having to uphold the law.
 
I am available to discuss this further at (Phone number).
 
Thank you for your consideration,
(sign name)
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