New York coalitions see signs of progress in new transparency laws signed by governor

Government transparency took a few legislative steps forward this fall in New York, where the National of Freedom of Information Coalition has two member organizations.

Starting Nov. 18, 2021, public bodies must post their meeting documents online, to the “extent practicable,” at least 24 hours before a meeting. The New York Coalition for Open Government, an NFOIC member, had advocated for the posting of meeting minutes.

“Our efforts have successfully led to the first changes to the Open Meetings Law in ten years,” New York Coalition President Paul Wolf wrote to supporters Nov. 10, 2021. “Prior to this change in the law, there was not a time period stated and to the extent practicable was determined by the local government. In the future, we need to get rid of the to the ‘extent practicable’ language, as there should be no practicable reason why documents cannot be scanned and posted online.”

Wolf also noted another new law, supported by the New York Coalition, that will require meeting minutes or a meeting recording to be posted online within 14 days after a meeting. While Wolf said the coalition would prefer both minutes and recordings to be posted, the group considered the new law as progress. 

Reinvent Albany, also an NFOIC member, on Oct. 14, 2021, drafted a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul, urging her to sign the MTA Open Data Act. The letter was signed by 18 organizations, including the NFOIC. 

In late October, Hochul signed the bill, which will require the Metropolitan Transportation Authority “to publish its data in open data formats, which can be easily accessed, downloaded and manipulated by the public.”