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Public Records Bill Clears Committee

A bill reforming the state's public records laws cleared a joint House and Senate committee on Thursday with all but two of the 16 members voting in support of the legislation that aims to reduce costs for obtaining records and provide recourse for wrongful denials.

Rep. Denise Provost, a Somerville Democrat, reserved her rights, and Rep. Michelle DuBois, a Brockton Democrat, did not vote in the email poll of the committee, which was opened late Wednesday afternoon.

The redrafted version (H. 3665) of State Administration Committee Co-Chair Rep. Peter Kocot's legislation would allow requesters to be awarded attorney's fees by the court if it is determined they were wrongfully denied access. The bill would also the limit the cost of copies to 5 cents per page and make it easier to obtain electronic copies of requested records.

The bill was referred on Thursday to the House Ways and Means Committee. Kocot told the News Service on Wednesday he was optimistic the bill would surface for a vote soon.

Sen. Joan Lovely, the co-chair of the committee, briefed Senate Democrats on the issue Thursday during a voluntary caucus.

"The proposed reforms make accessing public records easier by connecting people with designated records officers, encouraging the use of electronic records, lowering fees associated with obtaining public records, and allowing individuals a chance to recoup attorneys’ fees if their request is wrongfully denied," Lovely said in a statement.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg called it a "strong bill" that is "long overdue."

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