Assemblywoman Sandy Galef Proposes Legislation That Enhances “Sunshine Week”

March 24, 2009

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef has introduced two pieces of legislation that will make government and public records more accessible to the public in conjunction with “Sunshine Week”.

The first bill (A.6338) provides that any record indicating the proposed terms of a collective bargaining agreement be made available to the public. Specifically, school district collective bargaining which includes salaries and benefits of all school district personnel has most often been kept from the public until ratification of the contract has been completed. The bill would open up these agreements for public review before the contract is voted on by the school district. School personnel costs and benefits cost approximately 60-80% of the school budget.

“These collective bargaining agreements should be accessible to the public,” said Galef. “This week in New York is “Sunshine Week”, a week to embrace transparency and accountability. This bill does just that. It’s time for the taxpayers to know exactly where their school tax money is going. New York should be committed to reform which gives its citizens the option of accessing this information.”

In addition Galef has sponsored bill (A.5726) which waives the ability of government agencies in New York to claim copyright protection except where the record reflects artistic creation, or scientific or academic research. This has traditionally been done by government in order to charge more than the actual cost for reproducing records or to discourage the dissemination of public information.

“Government agencies should not be using copyrights to protect themselves from having to disseminate information. These copyrights, outside of protecting artistic creation and research, are unnecessary. Furthermore copyrights should not be used on records that promote the public’s understanding of government functions and activities.” Galef said. “The public should be allowed to see into the agencies without having to try to get past the unnecessary copyrights standing in their way.”

This bill passed the Assembly as part of a government reform package the Assembly has advanced in celebration of “Sunshine Week”. The package of bills was aimed at strengthening government’s transparency and openness.

“I am trying to remove needless obstacles that prohibit New Yorker’s from accessing information that should be fully visible. These bills are another step towards ensuring that if someone wants to find out specific information regarding New York governments and New York public schools, the information will be available. I will continue to work towards advancing these measures that strengthen the public’s right to know and improve government transparency,” Galef concluded.