March 17, 2010

Assembly Marks Sunshine Week By Passing Open Meetings And
Freedom Of Information Legislation

The Assembly reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening public participation in government by passing a six-bill legislative package today aimed at bolstering New York's Open Meetings and Freedom of Information laws, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governmental Operations Chair RoAnn Destito announced.

The legislative package coincides with "Sunshine Week", which is held each year in mid-March and aims to raise awareness of efforts to increase government openness and accountability. During Sunshine Week, media outlets, including newspapers and broadcasters, run editorials and feature stories highlighting the need for an open government at all levels of society that is responsive to not only journalists but all citizens.

In recent years the Assembly has successfully spearheaded the passage of legislation that allows individuals to request public records in a form other than paper and a bill that requires state agencies to list relevant subject matter lists on their respective websites to improve public knowledge of what information is subject to the Freedom of Information Law.

"The success of government hinges on its ability to engage citizens and encourage public participation," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "Sunshine Week is critical to our understanding of the need for openness and transparency. Whether it is access to important public records relating to bridges or the ability of citizens to observe a public governmental meeting, the Assembly stands committed to encouraging the participation of all New Yorkers in government."

"The reforms in the Assembly's Sunshine package this year are intended to lead to better government through increased openness and accountability," said Destito (D/WF-Rome). "The public's right to know how government operates and to have insight into government and agency decisions that impact their lives are of interest to every citizen and form the backbone of any government based on the rule of law."

This year's legislative package included legislation that permits the courts to void policy decisions made by government bodies that are made in violation of the public meetings law and require violators to attend training session on compliance with the laws (A.10196/Destito). Additionally, the Assembly passed a measure that would increase public awareness of governmental functions by clearly allowing for the recording, broadcasting and photographing of any public meeting of a governmental organization (A.10093/Destito);

Bills passed as a part of the Assembly's Sunshine Week legislative package would: