Assessment of Governor’s Veto Message and FOIL Executive Order

December 15, 2015

Governor Cuomo recently vetoed two bills that would have strengthened the Freedom of Information Law. The vetoed bills were introduced at the behest of the State Committee on Open Government, and were intended to address long-standing problems the public faces when agencies refuse to obey FOIL. The bills were strongly supported by leading public interest groups and garnered support from more than a dozen editorials.

Summary

Reinvent Albany’s assessment rebuts the governor’s veto message and the executive order he issued. In his combination veto message/executive order, and in his subsequent remarks, the governor and his administration have made three basic points:

  1. The bills are unfair because they do not apply to the legislature. FOIL has never applied to the legislature, so this seems like an odd reason to veto two bills that would apply to all statewide and local agencies and offices.
  2. The bills would create “radical changes” and are “seriously flawed.” The bills are taken from language provided by the State Committee on Open Government, the state’s open government ombudsman. Our analysis does not find them flawed.
  3. “The governor will continue to lead by example in advancing transparency” and “will immediately direct state agencies to fast track FOIL appeals” via executive order. Unfortunately, as the chart below shows, the governor’s executive order does only a fraction of what the two vetoed bills do.

FOIL bills Dec 2015 Chart

 

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