NY Legislature Passes Good Government Bills Ensuring Transparency For Public Meetings

Bills by Kaplan and Paulin will ensure all meeting documents and minutes be made available to the public in a timely fashion. Following passage in both houses, the bills now go to the Governor

Study by the New York Coalition for Open Government shows 20% of local governments fail to post meeting documents online before a meeting occurs and 70% fail to post timely meeting minutes

 

ALBANY, NY (June 11, 2021) - This week, the New York State Senate passed good government legislation by State Senator Anna M. Kaplan (D-North Hills) and Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale), S.1150A and S.4704A, which will ensure that meeting documents are made available to the public prior to a public meeting, and ensure that minutes from public meetings are posted online in a timely fashion.

Bill sponsor Senator Anna M. Kaplan said "weaknesses in the State's Open Meetings Law allow far too many municipalities to hold public meetings in the shadows, refusing to do the right thing because true transparency isn't required of them in the law. Since these local governments have chosen not to step up and make their proceedings open and transparent, we have a responsibility to tighten up the law and bring them into the light."

Bill sponsor Assemblymember Amy Paulin said "We must remove all barriers so the public can better understand the actions and decisions made by their local government. The technology exists to post public meeting documents easily and in a timely way. By providing more transparency we build trust and allow meaningful public participation. We all benefit from better governance, and the public can offer insightful views and steer processes in a positive way."

A recent study by the New York Coalition for Open Government ("Local Governments Struggle with Timely Posting of Meeting Minutes") found that many local governments across New York State fail to live up to the spirit of the State's Open Meetings Law by restricting citizens' right to access information from public institutions. Notably, the study found that 20% of the local governments surveyed failed to post their full meeting documents online for the public to see before their meeting, and 70% failed to post minutes from their meetings in a timely fashion.

The bills, S.1150A and S.4704A, will, respectively:

  • Amend the public officers law to require documents to be discussed at open meetings be made available upon request or posted on the public body's website at least 24 hours prior to such open meeting
  • Require public bodies that maintain a regularly and routinely updated website and utilize a high speed internet connection to make meeting minutes, or unabridged audio or video recordings, or unabridged written transcripts available on the public body's website.

Following passage in both houses of the legislature, the bills now go to the Governor.