March 15, 2017

Assembly Observes National Sunshine Week, Approves Legislation To Improve Public's Access to Government Records

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Governmental Operations Committee Chair Crystal Peoples-Stokes announced the Assembly passage of legislation this week to expand the state's Freedom of Information Laws (FOIL) as part of its longtime commitment to enhancing the public's right to access government records and in observance of national Sunshine Week, March 12th to 18th.

"The Sunshine Week legislative package approved by the Assembly, which for many years has been at the forefront of advancing legislation to make government more accountable and transparent, will help to improve openness in government and strengthen the public's right to know so they can become better informed about their government," said Heastie.

"To mark the observance of Sunshine Week, the Assembly passed legislation that will provide the public with greater access to government records," said Peoples-Stokes. "Public participation is critical to our representative form of government and the measures we approved this week will help ensure the voices of the people are heard."

The Assembly's Sunshine Week legislation includes a bill (A.3463, Englebright) that prohibits automatic blanket denials to requests for records made under FOIL and requires specific justification for the denial of records. The measure would ensure that when individuals are denied a FOIL request that denial does not also apply to subsequent requests for access to government files.

Another significant measure (A.3306, Englebright) in the Assembly FOIL package would clarify that the name of a retiree can be disclosed under FOIL but exempts from disclosure their home address and the name and address of their beneficiaries.

To strengthen the state's FOIL laws, the Assembly also approved legislation that would:

The Assembly Sunshine legislation also directs state agencies that maintain websites to ensure their sites are equipped to allow the public to submit FOIL requests online (A.2131, Peoples-Stokes).