Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governmental Operations Committee Chair RoAnn Destito announced Assembly passage of a four-bill legislative package aimed at strengthening the state's Open Meetings Law, augmenting government transparency and ensuring compliance with Freedom of Information Laws (FOIL).
This legislative package coincides with Sunshine Week, an annual national initiative recognized in mid- March that strives to raise awareness of the importance of free and accessible exchange of information in government. Newspapers and broadcasters feature stories, editorials, and cartoons that emphasize the necessity of an open government responsive to its citizens.
"Citizen participation is fundamental to the success of our governmental process," said Silver (DManhattan). "In order for there to be an engaged citizenry, we, as elected officials, must always protect and enhance an environment that enables people to be informed and have their voices heard. This legislative package adds to the Assembly Majority's advocacy of opening up the doors and windows of government."
"Knowledge is the simplest way to hold government accountable and the legislative package passed today makes it easier for the average citizen to do just that," said Destito (D/WF-Rome). "Without public trust, a system grounded in the rule of law cannot flourish. Shining more light on government helps improve and solidify faith in government. "
In addition to legislation passed today, a roundtable discussion will be held on March 15 to examine the types of public records that can be converted into an electronic format, making them readily available to anyone.
The bills make several meaningful reforms, including:
- Limiting the time state agencies would have to appeal Article 78 Supreme Court judgments against them for violations of FOIL (A.68/Latimer);
- Requiring that certain records discussed at open meetings be made available to the public prior to such meeting (A.72-A/Paulin);
- Requiring the Commissioner of the Office of General Services to maintain an inventory and audit of every state-owned real property or unappropriated state land that has been sold (A.2305/Destito); and
- Requiring entities that submit records to state agencies that are exempted from disclosure under FOIL to periodically re-apply for the exception (A.5601-A/Destito).