New Senate Website Expands Information Available to Public

State Senator David J. Valesky (D-Oneida) today announced a substantial expansion of publicly available Senate legislative records on the chamber’s website at Open.NYSenate.Gov, continuing the Senate’s commitment to making government more transparent, responsive and accountable.

“This is a giant step toward proactive disclosure in New York State government,” said Senator Valesky, Vice President Pro-Tempore of the Senate and Co-Chair of the Temporary Committee on Rules and Administration Reform. “By giving New York State residents free access to Senate legislative records and its day-to-day operations, and bringing previously unavailable data into the public domain, we will improve service to our constituents.”

The improvements in transparency of Senate legislative records are in line with the Senator Valesky’s  recommendations conveyed in a report in the report of the Temporary Committee on Rules and Administration Reform, and reflected in the rules reforms passed in July.

For the first time in history, the public will have free access to information about all Senators’ votes—both in committee and in the chamber. Committee agendas, archived transcripts of Senate sessions and updated Senate session calendars are now available at Open.NYSenate.Gov. In addition, committee meetings will be webcast and archived on the Senate website, another recommendation made by the Temporary Committee, which was codified in the new rules.

Utilizing a simple interface, users of the New York Senate web site can find legislative information as easily as performing a Google search.  Users can quickly perform a detailed legislative search by keyword, topic, Senator, committee, recent actions and recent votes.  The site also allows users to comment on legislation as well.

Good government groups have also lauded the expanded website.

“Citizens Union applauds the expansion of the State Senate’s ‘Open Legislation’ web tool to contain committee votes, transcripts, agendas and other important materials that will give the public greater insight into the legislative process,” Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union, said. “We support the fulfillment of the Senate rules promise for greater transparency through the Senate website, and believe it is an invaluable tool for the public in holding our elected officials accountable.”

“The League of Women Voters applauds Senator Valesky and the State Senate for its efforts to further open the legislative process. For those not-for-profits who cannot afford the expense of LRS, this is a huge benefit enabling them to impact state government in a timely manner. Importantly, it will also better allow the average citizen the ability to keep their legislators accountable,” said Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director for the League of Women Voters.

“NYPIRG commends the senate for its continuing efforts to use technology to bring government closer to the people,” Blair Horner, NYPIRG Legislative Director, said.

The website is one component of a larger commitment by the Senate Majority conference to overall reform. The Senate rules passed in July also diffused power that had become concentrated in the hands of former leaders by adopting term limits on leadership and new rules for committees that empower individual the rank-and-file.