On March 10, MMLA presented a program at Clark University in Worcester, entitled “The New Marijuana Law—How Municipalities Can (and Should) Respond”. The program, which was co-sponsored by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, attracted over 150 attendees, making it one of MMLA’s largest events. Participants included municipal counsel, town administrators and managers, municipal and regional planners, and members of planning boards, ZBAs, and Boards of Health.
The MMLA program panelists included Attorney Brandon Moss; Assistant Attorney General Margaret Hurley, Director of the Municipal Law Unit; Sarah Kim and Shawn Collins, the General Counsel and Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, respectively, in the Office of the State Treasurer; and Jeffrey Bagg, Principal Planner for the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission. The panel was moderated by MMLA Executive Board member John Goldrosen. The panelists provided a legal overview of the statute, information on the Attorney General’s and State Treasurer’s roles, and the panelists’ perspectives on the issues to be addressed at the municipal level. The program concluded with an extended question-and-answer period.
On December 16th, the Secretary of State released its final version of regulations intended to implement the major changes in the state Public Records Law enacted by the Legislature during its last session. Chapter 121 of the Acts of 2016 made major changes to the public records statutes which until then had remained substantially unchanged for many years, rendering them very much out of sync with contemporary electronic means of records creation, transmission, use, retention, access, and disposal. Click here to view the full text of the new regulations, which go into effect on January 1st.
Substantively, the new statutory and regulatory provisions govern the process by which state agencies and municipalities respond to and process public records requests, including detailed specifications of the charges that may be imposed on the requester. MMLA and MMA will be co-sponsoring a workshop at MMA’s Annual Meeting & Trade Show on Jan. 21 on the requirements of the law and regulations, as well as best practices that cities and towns can implement to facilitate compliance with the new rules. MMLA is in the process of fashioning informational guidelines for city and town officials including best practice in complying with the revised public records statutes and regulations.
On October 6th, a hearing was held at the Secretary of State’s Office on regulations proposed to implement recent major changes in the state Public Records Law. MMLA executive board member Kevin Batt, and MMA representative John Robertson testified on behalf of both organizations, submitting a joint letter commenting on the proposed regulations. They also jointly submitted a redline version of the draft regulations showing suggested changes to the draft regulations. Click on the following links to the relevant documents:
Chapter 121, Acts of 2016
MMLA-MMA Redline Version of DRAFT Regulations
MMLA-MMA Written Testimony
June 25, 2016 – After a year of intense debate, legislation overhauling the state’s public records law for the first time in over 40 years was signed by Governor Charlie Baker.
The new guidelines set a new time frame for producing public records, make a portion of employee time spent performing records requests exempt from reimbursement, and allow requestors to appeal directly to superior court to compel compliance.
Public entities must be prepared to comply with these new requirements as of January 1, 2017. MMLA Executive Board member Matthew G. Feher, of Burns & Levinson (Boston), Chair of MMLA’s Legislative Committee, has provided us with a short article explaining the key provisions of the new law. Click here for the full text of that article.
On June 9th, the Massachusetts Senate passed Senate Bill S.2311, “An Act Promoting Housing and Sustainable Development,” legislation that Senator Dan Wolf refers to as “changing local and state zoning laws to increase housing stock and build communities that will reduce sprawl and eliminate restrictive zoning laws.” Senator Wolf’s press release issued the same day described bills details in anticipation of the bill proceeding to the House of Representatives for further action.
Public Records Bill Signed by Governor
After about a year of intense debate, legislation overhauling the state’s public records law for first time in over 40 years was signed by Gov. Charlie Baker earlier today. The provisions of the new law take effect on January 1, 2017, and the Secretary of State’s office is expected to release regulations sometime later this year.
Among other things, the new law will impose greater limitations on the timeframes that state agencies and municipalities must comply with to produce public records, exempt time associated with fulfilling the request from reimbursement, allow a requester to appeal directly to Superior Court to compel compliance and expose state agencies and municipalities to monetary penalties.
MMLA is preparing a comprehensive overview of the new law and will post such to this website.
For the full text of the new Public Records Law, click on H4333 – Public Records Law
[5.24.16] – After months of public deliberations, a conference committee charged with ironing-out differences between competing House and Senate public records law packages released a compromise bill earlier today that is expected to be voted by the House Wednesday. The conference committee report reflects several areas pushed by MMLA and included language that requires that a request be made in writing, ensures that time spent by legal counsel assisting with the production of public records is reimbursed, and maintains a level of judicial discretion as it relates to the award of attorneys’ fees and damages. The bill requires that cities and towns comply with a request or render a response within 10 business days, and provides as many as 55 business days to comply with the law under certain circumstances and if granted by the supervisor of public records. MMLA will prepare a thorough analysis of the legislation – please visit this website for additional updates and information.