A bill reforming existing public records laws in Massachusetts "goes a long way to restoring trust in government," said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the Massachusetts ACLU.

The bill—which Governor Charlie Baker signed Friday—allows judges to force states, cities, and towns to pay legal fees if records are inappropriately withheld, reduces copying fees, gives communities more time to comply with requests, and makes MBTA Retirement Board documents public, among other reforms.

"It's a huge victory," Rose said. 

"The big fix really is to have an enforcement mechanism. Until this fix went into place, an official who received a public records request could just ignore it, and there was no pubishment—and no reason not to ignore it," she explained.

Some critics, however. say the new reforms don't go nearly far enough in addressing the state's transparency issues.

Brian McGrory, editor of the Boston Globe, criticised the bill for maintaining exemptions for the executive and legislative branches of government and for not going far enough to assist private citizens and media organizations to recoup legal fees for public records lawsuits.

"The existing bill still has major, major shortcomings," he told Boston Public Radio in May.

But Carol Rose said the establishment of an enforcement mechanism was a necessary step for future reforms, including chipping away at exemptions for branches of government.

"You can always make perfect the enemy of the vastly improved," she said. 

Rose said the bill also made headway on the issue of recouping legal fees.

"We wanted mandatory attorney's fees, but with the legislative process we had to take into account the concerns of small cities and towns," she explained. "If attorney's fees aren't awarded, there have to be written reasons for it, and that's a basis for appeal down the road."

To hear more from Carol Rose, tune in to Boston Public Radio above.