Senator John J. Flanagan (2nd Senate District) announced that legislation requiring government agencies to provide information to the public when requested has passed the New York State Senate. Senator Flanagan voted to support the important public information law to strengthen the provisions of New York State's Freedom of Information Act (FOIL) by ensuring that requests are promptly responded to by government agencies.
The legislation that Senator Flanagan supported would permit the recovery of reasonable attorney's fees and other costs when the court finds that there is not reasonable basis for denying access to government records. These fees would also be applicable if the government agency were to fail to respond to a request or appeal within the time allowed by law.
"Passage of this legislation is extremely significant for people seeking access to government documents," Diane Kennedy, President of the New York Publishers Association, said. "This legislation is a major triumph for openness in government."
The legislation builds on the efforts of the New York State Senate last year when they passed additional measures to strengthen the FOIL laws. Newspapers throughout the State praised the Senate FOIL initiative as a major reform and have been advocating for the additional FOIL changes included in the legislation that was approved in the Senate today.
Senator Flanagan has sponsored several pieces of legislation to provide greater access to information to the public. In 2003, he successfully sponsored a new law requiring campaign finance information for political candidates or committees to be filed electronically and authored another that called for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to disclose information regarding toxic spills to the public.
In 2004, Senator Flanagan authored a new law that protected the right of members of the public to gain access to public records.
"The public has a right to view the workings of their government and the government has a duty to provide that access when requested. This legislation would greatly enhance the public's availability to government information and that is always a good thing. I have supported an open state government in the past and I will continue to support measures that accomplish that goal," stated Senator Flanagan.
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