Gov. Cuomo signs landmark open-government law

Assembly member Amy Paulin of Westchester, lead sponsor of new open government law. Photo courtesy office of Assemblymember Paulin.

Yesterday, following months of uncertainty, Governor Cuomo signed into law a measure that will require state and local agencies to make available all resolutions and related documents to be discussed at public meetings to be made available before or at the meeting – on the agency’s website, if it has one that it regularly updates. Currently, documents in many instances are made available following the meeting or not at all. Agencies are exempted from the requirement if compliance is too expensive or exceedingly onerous.

The bill’s lead sponsor in the Assembly, Assemblymember Amy Paulin of Westchester, said she is “ecstatic” that the provision has passed, calling it the first expansion of the Open Meetings Law in the more than 11 years she has served in the New York State Assembly. “I think the bill will give the public increased participation and transparency, which is going to enhance government all around the state,” she said. “We are offering the public a way to really understand and participate in government meetings.”

The new requirements reportedly raised hackles among some affected officials, and ensuring agencies to comply will likely become a task for civic groups and members of the public. Under the state open meetings law, anyone can sue an agency that fails to provide the required documents; a court could then order the agency to provide staff training, as well as cover the plaintiff’s legal costs.

Gov. Cuomo’s office could not be reached for comment. The law goes into effect in early February.

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