Decision Day for Gov Cuomo on Bills Strengthening Freedom of Information Law

By tonight at midnight, Governor Cuomo will either have signed or vetoed two bills which strengthen the state’s Freedom of Information Law. The governor will make his decision at the same time a jury is deciding corruption charges against former senate leader Dean Skelos, and just weeks after another jury convicted Sheldon Silver. The two bills before the governor will help make state and local government more transparent and accountable.

Both bills were originally proposed by the state’s Committee on Open Government,are narrowly focused, have a clear intent, and will be easy for the state to implement. Both passed the legislature unanimously, and both were endorsed by more than a dozen newspaper editorials and numerous civic groups.

These bills are a step in the right direction and they present the governor with a clear choice between being part of the problem in Albany or part of the solution.

Summary of FOIL Bills

A.114 (Buchwald Ranzenhofer) reduces the time agencies have to appeal a judge’s decision granting public access to public records to two months from nine months.

A.1438B (Paulin/ Gallivan) requires judges to award attorney’s fees when a member of the public “substantially” prevails in a Freedom of Information lawsuit.  Numerous states already have laws in place to awards attorney’s fees including:

Colorado: fees “shall be awarded” to anyone who wins FOIL lawsuit.
California: court “shall award costs and fees” – court can even award 1.25x the plaintiffs attorneys fees to attorneys for taking FOIL litigation on contingency.
Florida: “court shall assess” costs and fees if agency unlawfully refused request.
Illinois: fees “shall be awarded” to anyone who wins FOIL lawsuit.
New Jersey: fees “shall be awarded” to anyone who prevails.

 

Groups Call on Governor Cuomo to Sign Bills Strengthening FOIL: Legislation would increase transparency and reduce the risk of corruption

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Eight Editorial Boards Call on Governor Cuomo to Sign Bills Strengthening Freedom of Information

Propelled by the conviction of former Assembly Speaker Silver and the ongoing trial of former Senate Leader Skelos, editorial boards are again calling on Governor Cuomo to sign two bills, A114 and A1438B, that would strengthen New York’s Freedom of Information Laws. Cuomo has until midnight on December 11th to sign or veto the bills, which are also strongly supported by Reinvent Albany and leading civic and transparency groups.

Eight Recent Editorials

The Citizen, Auburn: “Establishing two positive enhancements of the people’s right to know would show that Cuomo is serious about transparency and accountability.”

Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester: “By signing these bills, Cuomo would send a strong message to state agencies to take open records laws seriously.”

The Journal News, Lower Hudson: “There is no good reason for Cuomo to veto bills that would help citizens, advocacy groups, journalists and others access public records and hold government accountable.”

Post Star, Glens Falls: “The free exchange of information from the people’s government to the people is the foundation of our system. These bills will facilitate that exchange, and we urge the governor to sign them.”

Poughkeepsie Journal, Poughkeepsie: “On behalf of a better, more accountable government, the governor should not only join in this effort, he should lead with his signature.”

Syracuse.com, Syracuse: “As the clock runs out on 2015, we urge Cuomo to sign these two bills into law.”

Times Union, Albany: “That hardly seems fair, does it — for a government to force citizens to go to the hassle and expense of a lawsuit to get public records?”

Watertown Daily News, Watertown: “These are common-sense bills to revise the FOIL for the better. We urge the governor to sign them into law immediately.”