BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov.-elect Maura Healey will not follow in the footsteps of her predecessors and claim an exemption from public records laws as governor, she said on GBH News Tuesday afternoon.
“You told us in 2015, I’m sure you remember it well, you didn’t believe in blanket exemption,” said GBH host of “Ask the Governor-Elect” Jim Braude. “So I can assume two questions, one, will you confirm that you will not claim exemption from public records laws as governor and will you support legislation that at least cuts back whatever exemptions the Legislature and judiciary believe they have?” “Yes and yes,” Healey responded.
The move would represent a shift for Massachusetts, which is the only state in the country where the governor’s office, the Legislature and the judiciary all claim that they are exempt from the public records law that makes many emails, documents and other records accessible to interested parties by request and, potentially, a fee. While governors have historically claimed their own offices are exempt from the public records law, most of the executive branch is subject to its provisions.
Agencies across state government, ranging from the Department of Transportation to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security have online portals through which residents can request access to memos, emails and other records. Healey has backed the idea of a more transparent governor’s office since early in her campaign.
As attorney general, her office is responsible for enforcing the public records law. In February when Healey said she believes the governor’s office should fall under the umbrella of agencies and bodies subject to the law’s provisions, she stopped short of saying whether the Legislature and judiciary should also comply.
Her “yes and yes” Tuesday afternoon shows a shift from previous non-comment on the law applying to other state government branches. Shortly after he launched his latest reelection campaign, Secretary of State William Galvin announced he would seek legislation requiring the governor’s office — but not the Legislature or judiciary — to comply with the transparency law.
A petition to that end (SD 2981) that Acton Democrat Sen. Jamie Eldridge filed on Galvin’s behalf earlier this year has sat in the State Administration and Regulatory Oversight Committee since February.