Legislature And Newspaper Publishers Announce Agreement On Foil Legislation

Thomas P. Morahan

May 29, 2006

New York State Senator Thomas P. Morahan announced that New York State Legislative leaders had reached agreement with the New York Newspaper Publishers Association on legislation that would help stop government stonewalling of requests made under the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIL). The bill would put teeth in the enforcement of the FOIL law and help guarantee that FOIL requests are responded to promptly by government agencies.

"The FOIL law, needs to be enforced, providing people with a timely response to requests, and making government more open, accountable and responsive to the needs of New Yorkers, " said Senator Morahan.

The bill states that the court may assess against a government agency, reasonable attorney’s fees and other litigation costs incurred by the FOIL petitioner, if the agency had no reasonable basis for denying access to the information, or if the agency failed to respond to a request or appeal within the time defined in the law.

The legislation builds on a law, enacted last year, to strengthen the state’s FOIL law. Newspapers throughout the State praised the FOIL initiative as a major reform and have been advocating for the additional FOIL changes included in the agreement being announced today.

"This legislation would encourage citizens to enforce their rights under the Freedom of Information Law, knowing that if they prevail, a government agency that violated the law would have to pay their costs," Diane Kennedy, President of the New York Publishers Association, said. "As it stands, agencies sometimes ignore requests for documents, secure in the knowledge that the law makes it nearly impossible for citizens without significant financial resources to fight for access."