Healey also committed to supporting legislation that would cut back at exemptions claimed by the Legislature and Supreme Judicial Court.

Gov. Elect Maura Healey committed to not claiming exemption to public records laws as governor. (Nancy Lane/Pool)

Massachusetts Governor-elect Maura Healey may become the first governor in over two decades to open the executive branch up to public records requests, marking a huge step towards increased transparency in the state government.

During a GBH interview entitled “Ask the Governor-elect” on Tuesday, Boston Public Radio’s Jim Braude asked Healey:

“Will you confirm that you will not claim an 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, yes,” the former state attorney general answered quickly.

“Well, that takes care of that,” Braude said.

Though Healey made quick assurances, if she followed through, it would mark a major shift for Massachusetts.

In 1997, the state Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) outraged journalists and transparency advocates when it handed down a decision that found that because the state’s public records law did not explicitly name the three branches of government, those branches are, effectively, exempt.

Since then, the Legislature, governor, and the SJC have claimed exemption to public records laws. Massachusetts is the only state in which this is the case, and one of only two states in which the governor claims exemption to public records laws.

Even Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin has long pushed against this precedent, telling The Boston Globe that the decision has been “terribly abused.”

Last year he proposed legislation that would force the governor’s office to comply with public records law, to no avail.

Healey’s response comes a day after the executive directors of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, the New England Newspaper and Press Association, and the New England First Amendment Coalition wrote to her urging her to break with the public records law exemption precedent and file legislation to make all three branches of government subject to public records law.

“You have the singular opportunity to reverse 25 years of an ill-conceived policy that has allowed the governor’s office to operate under a level of secrecy that is unimaginable in 48 of 50 U.S. states,” they wrote.

The chances that Healey follows through on this promise seem good given that it’s not the first time she’s committed to doing so. In February 2022, a spokesperson for her campaign told WBUR: “AG Healey has long supported updating the public records law to cover the Governor’s Office in the interest of transparency and accountability.”


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