Robert Ambrogi reports that:
The Massachusetts legislature's Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight today held a hearing on a number of open government bills and both the Senate and House chairs of the committee indicated support for measures that would add "teeth" to the law. In my capacity as executive director of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, I testified in support of House Bill 3217, an MNPA-drafted bill that would allow fines against individual board members who violate the law and allow recovery of attorneys' fees by private citizens who bring actions to enforce the law.
Let's hope the Massachusetts legislature follows through on this. While state open meetings laws can provide useful leverage in the battle to get access to the workings of government, they typically lack any real enforcement mechanisms. Oftentimes the only recourse available when a meeting has been improperly closed is to get a "ruling" by a state official -- long after the fact -- that the meeting should have been open. Allowing fines and the recovery of attorneys' fees will add some real teeth to the Massachusetts act.
You can track the status of the Massachusetts bill at OpenMass.org.