March 13, 2012

Assembly Sunshine Week Legislation Will Improve Access to Government Documents, Increasing Transparency and Strengthening Accountability

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Governmental Operations Committee Chair Steve Englebright today announced the passage of Assembly legislation to enhance the state's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), as part of the house's Sunshine Week observance.

According to Speaker Silver, the five bill Sunshine Week legislative package would "make it easier to obtain copies of public documents to increase transparency. This legislation will ensure people can more easily understand how their government works and empower them to take a more active role in public affairs."

"Openness and accountability are critical to a government's ability to advance principles of fairness, opportunity, justice, and freedom, the pillars of our democracy," said Silver. "With this legislation, the Assembly continues its longstanding support for a strong Freedom of Information Law that enhances public confidence in government."

"Transparency and openness are critical to the effectiveness of government. The more people know about and understand the operations of their government, the more responsive it is to the needs and challenges facing its citizens," said Assemblyman Steve Englebright.

One of the measures (A.9460, Englebright) included in the Sunshine Week package addresses the availability of records involved in a judicial proceeding, making them available to the public and news organizations. The bill would permit access to records that are held by law enforcement agencies or are related to ongoing litigation so long as there is no interference with an investigation or a proceeding. Under the bill, the presiding judge would determine if disclosure would interfere with the proceeding. These changes would prevent arbitrary denials of access that have occurred in the past.

To further strengthen the state's Freedom of Information Law, the Assembly Sunshine legislation includes several other measures that would:

In addition, the Assembly also approved a bill (A.68, Latimer) that would limit the time in which state agencies would have to appeal court decisions that order the release of documents as required by FOIL.