MEMO IN SUPPORT
Requires the Secretary of State to Compile and Publish Information Related to State Boards, Commissions, Committees, Councils and Task Forces
S2975 (Skoufis)/A473 (Paulin)
November 20, 2019
TITLE OF BILL
Requires the secretary of state to compile, make public and keep current certain information about “state boards.”
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS
Section 1 of this bill adds a new section, 100-a, to the executive law requiring the secretary of state to compile and make public information about “state boards.” “State boards” are defined as any state public organization carrying out a function of state government, including boards, commissions, task forces, councils and committees created by state statute or executive order, with members appointed or elected. Excluded from the definition of “state boards” are informal advisory boards to agencies, committees of the legislature entirely consisting of legislators, boards of election, courts, university boards of trustees, local government entities, and public authorities or benefit corporations with gubernatorial appointees.
The secretary of state must make available on its website and for public inspection the membership and meeting information for state boards, and update annually:
- the legal basis for establishing the public organization
- the organization’s public information, including contact information and website
- the duties of the organization including any reports or products it must produce
- the size of the board and names and qualifications of board members
- compensation and reimbursement eligibility of boards
- dates and locations of board meetings held, and meetings to be held in the next 6 months
- Beginning on April 1, 2022, the process for filling vacancies on the boards and all vacancies, expired terms, and terms expiring in one year
State boards must report this information to the secretary of state by January 1st annually in a manner established by the secretary, and provide related compensation and expense data for the previous, current and next year.
The secretary of state will report on the status of creating a state boards inventory to the governor, speaker of the assembly, senate president, and chairs of investigations committees in each house on or before June 1, 2022. The status report will indicate the completeness of the information provided and impediments to obtaining the information.
STATEMENT OF SUPPORT
Reinvent Albany is concerned about the ever growing number of government entities operating outside of executive agencies and the legislature. This legislation seeks to provide an inventory of the many different state boards that exist, as well as fundamental information about their members and functions.
The public should be able to access a simple list of state government entities that the public funds and is served by, including information about the government business they are carrying out. This is no easy task, as indicated in communications in the bill jacket for this legislation. According to a 2010 review by the Assembly Oversight, Analysis and Investigations Committee, there are over 100 statutorily authorized boards and task forces with over 1,300 members, in addition to at least 500 advisory boards not covered by the most recent version of this legislation. Governor Paterson estimated there were a 1,000 of these boards.
The disclosure of this information will shed light on entities that are often not subject to as much scrutiny as more widely known state agencies and the legislature, and should spark a discussion on whether these state boards are needed, or whether they should be reconstituted or eliminated altogether. It will draw attention to when vacancies should be filled, whether boards should be made more diverse, or if compensation or expense policies are appropriate. The publication of meeting dates and times will also enable the public, media and other stakeholders to engage with state boards if interested in their work on behalf of the state.
Earlier versions of this bill were vetoed in 2010 by Governor David Paterson and in 2015 by Governor Andrew Cuomo. In vetoing the legislation, Governor Cuomo explained the information to be included in the database was already publicly available on Open NY, which he directed to be updated. However, on October 1, 2019, Reinvent Albany reviewed the datasets in the Open NY portal and was unable to find the information mandated in this bill (we did find some datasets owned by various “state boards” as defined in this law, but no datasets that even partially provide the information requested by this bill).
State agencies cited varying reasons for opposition including costs, the lack of clarity of the advisory committee exemption, and whether the Department of State is best suited to administering the database. While Reinvent Albany is not opposed to chapter amendments if needed to address these issues, a database of state boards is long overdue. Fundamental to efficient and effective state government is government being able to identify its component parts.