March 18, 2009

Assembly Advances 'Sunshine Week' Government Reform Package

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governmental Operations Committee Chair RoAnn Destito today announced the Assembly will honor "Sunshine Week" by passing a series of bills aimed at strengthening the state's Open Meetings Law, increasing government transparency and ensuring compliance with Freedom of Information laws.

The nine-bill package is intended to promote public awareness of governmental actions and information as the best way to foster better government through increased openness and accountability. Action on the legislation coincides with the annual Sunshine Week, March 15-21, when media around New York State and throughout the country run editorials, columns, cartoons, public forums and news and feature stories that drive public discussion about why open government is important to everyone, not just journalists.

"The Assembly has long been at the forefront of efforts to make government more open, accountable and responsive to the needs of New Yorkers," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "This important legislation continues our work and commitment to institute meaningful change and reform of citizen access and understanding of the work government does. When citizens are fully informed about what their governments are doing, they're more likely to get policies that can improve their communities and their lives."

In stressing the importance of every New Yorker's right to know what is happening in state government, Destito (D/WF-Rome) said, "Once again we strive to strengthen both the Open Meetings Law and the Freedom of Information Law by removing obstacles that stand in the way of the public's right to know and have access to government. In this age of reform, we especially want Sunshine Week to build on our previous achievements and to recognize new technological advances. This will be helpful in providing more government information for all to see."

The Assembly Majority has long been a strong advocate for meaningful government reform. Last year, a law was passed strengthening FOIL by allowing individuals to request a copy of a public record in a form other than paper (Ch. 223 of 2008). The Assembly also helped pass a law requiring that subject matter lists maintained by state agencies be posted online (Ch. 499 of 2008).

One of the bills (A.1045/Destito) would allow any meeting of a public body to be recorded, broadcast and photographed, provided that it is done in a way that is not disruptive to the meeting. Destito noted that technological advances make it possible to record the proceedings of a meeting without detracting from the deliberative process.

Other Legislation in the Assembly's Sunshine Week package would:

"This package builds on the Assembly Majority's previous achievements, and we are committed to continuing this effort by passing these important government reform initiatives," concluded Silver.