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As state lawmakers continue to consider reforms to Massachusetts' decades-old public records law -- widely considered one of the weakest in the nation -- Gov. Charlie Baker is implementing a series of immediate changes designed to improve access to public information.
Under the new rules announced Thursday, state agencies must designate a specific person to handle all records requests and inform requesters within five days if the information will take more than 10 days and/or $10 to pull together. The administration also wants all requests filled within eight weeks, with a written explanation required for any delays.
"The big thing we tried to do was to create a policy that would make all the issues associated with open records more predictable for people, especially the people making the requests," Baker told reporters.
The new rules also push state agencies to make information available in an electronic format when possible, and to post frequently requested information and documents on their websites.
Baker also released a standard pricing structure. The state will waive fees for "standard public records requests," though it did not define what that meant. For more complex requests, the state will provide the first four hours of work at no charge, and charge no more than $25 per hour for additional time.
The new rules, which will be implemented over the coming weeks, apply to the state's executive branch. The changes being considered by lawmakers would affect local government offices. Many local officials have complained about adding new "unfunded mandates" to their offices.
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