Assemblyman Benedetto (D-Bronx) announced that the Assembly passed a series of bills that would make government more open, accountable and transparent for New Yorkers. The legislative package marks the ninth annual “Sunshine Week” (March 16-22), a national, bipartisan commemoration of the importance of open government and freedom of information.
“There’s a famous saying that sunshine is the best disinfectant. I couldn’t agree more,” Assemblyman Benedetto said. “New Yorkers deserve to know how their government is working and where their tax dollars are being spent. Our democracy requires openness at all levels of government, which is why Sunshine Week is so important. Ensuring information is accessible makes our government more accountable and responsive to the people we serve.”
The Assembly’s legislation would:
- Prohibit government agencies from inappropriately using the copyright law to deny access to a public record (A.1700):
- Limit the time in which state agencies would have to appeal court decisions that order the release of documents as required by FOIL (A. 5306-B);
- Clarify that the name of a retiree, but not a beneficiary, in the public employees’ retirement system is subject to discourse under FOIL (A.5171)
- Increase consumer awareness by requiring the Department of Agriculture and Markets to post food safety violations by food stores, processors and manufacturers on a state website (A.8220).
Additionally, the Sunshine Week package includes legislation addressing the availability of records involved in a judicial proceeding, making them available to the public and media outlets if there is no risk that the disclosure would disrupt the proceedings (A.5170). The bill would permit access to records held by law enforcement agencies or related to ongoing litigation if it is determined by the presiding judge that release of the records causes no interference with the investigation or proceedings. These changes would circumvent arbitrary denials of access that have occurred in the past, Benedetto noted.
“A strong democracy doesn’t begin and end with free and fair elections,” Assemblyman Benedetto said. “New York also deserves good government practices that respect the public’s right to know. The Assembly’s legislation moves us forward to a more open and transparent government.”