Bills Will Speed Disclosure of Records Held Up by Legal Proceedings
Reinvent Albany submitted memos of support today for A.3939/S.5496 and S.4685-A/A.414-A to Governor Cuomo, urging him to sign the two FOIL-related bills that the legislature passed last session. The legislation will make it easier to obtain government records connected to court proceedings in New York State. The Governor will likely sign or veto the legislation by the end of the year.
Other portions of the bill also importantly clarify the presumption of access to records. Agencies must provide a specific justification when exempting a record from disclosure. The legislation also clarifies that a denial to a record under FOIL does not prevent a requester from obtaining the record through other laws, that a party to a civil or criminal action or proceeding may use FOIL to obtain records related to that proceeding, and that agencies may not exempt categories or types of records from disclosure.
Every year, hundreds of commercial enterprises enter in contracts with New York state that require certain trade secrets to be submitted to state agencies. The trade secrets, if released, can substantially harm a company’s competitive position, and companies have a right to seek the protection of those secrets. But extended proceedings can delay disclosure of information that is not a trade secret or will not cause substantial injury to the company’s competitive position. This information is valuable to the public’s understanding of how tax dollars are being spent.