cuomo_250x-9912100“I want the Legislature to understand that we’re serious about reform.”

So said Governor Andrew Cuomo following his veto of two bills that would have strengthened New York’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL)—helping citizens hold government, at all levels, more accountable.

So if you can follow the governor’s logic, before he could show us he was “serious about reform,” he had to block a pair of reforms he had sitting on his desk.

In his message vetoing A114 and A1438 and the preamble to his newly issued Executive Order No. 149, Cuomo objects that the Legislature didn’t make itself subject to the new FOIL provisions, noting that “other branches” are “intentionally” excluded (which, for the Legislature, has been the case since the law was first enacted some 40 years ago).

Agreed, the Legislature absolutely should fall under the provisions of FOIL.

In fact, we’ve been calling for such for years now in our SeeThrough Government Transparency Act, which among numerous fixes to FOIL, would make the Legislature subject to FOIL’s provisions. The Governor has largely ignored these suggestions until now, when they offer a convenient (though thin) excuse for the vetoes.

The Executive Order commits all state agencies (but, given the limits of executive power, only state agencies) to fast-track FOIL appeals, but without the timelines and accountability measures the vetoed bills included. The Governor also promises to introduce legislation that will, “encompass these issues, address the described flaws, and execute more comprehensive FOIL reform,” otherwise unspecified.

As the Governor begins thinking about these important issues, he and his staff should consider the ideas and opinions of those around the state that have been thinking and writing about FOIL; those who live in the trenches of FOIL outside of government agencies.

After all, FOIL’s purpose is to grant New York residents access to their government data, not to protect or shield those agencies that have trouble following the law. As the law’s legislative declaration states:

The people’s right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is basic to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality.

About the Author

Tim Hoefer

Tim Hoefer is president & CEO of the Empire Center for Public Policy.

Read more by Tim Hoefer

You may also like

New Jersey’s Pandemic Report Shines Harsh Light on a New York Scandal

A recently published independent review of New Jersey's pandemic response holds lessons for New York on at least two levels. First, it marked the only serious attempt by any state t Read More

Hochul’s ‘Straight Talk’ on Medicaid Isn’t Straight Enough

Arguably the biggest Medicaid news in Governor Hochul's budget presentation was about the current fiscal year, not the next one: The state-run health plan is running substantially over budget. Read More

DeRosa Is Still Hiding the Truth About Cuomo’s Pandemic Response

As the long-time top aide to former Governor Andrew Cuomo, Melissa DeRosa ought to have useful information to share about the state's pandemic response – especially about what went wrong and how the state could be better Read More

One Brooklyn Health’s Money Troubles Raise a Billion-Dollar Question

A brewing fiscal crisis at One Brooklyn Health, which has received more than $1 billion in turnaround funding from the state, raises the question of whether that money has been well spent. Read More

Beware of Medicaid’s Spending Swings

The state's Medicaid spending is becoming increasingly volatile from month to mo Read More

Emails Confirm That Cuomo’s Staff Launched Its ‘Book’ Project in March 2020

A pair of state-employed writers began researching, outlining and drafting a book about Governor Andrew Cuomo's pandemic response in late March 2020, weeks before New York's harrowing first wave had passed, according to newly disclosed email records. Read More

A Politically Active Medical Group Gains Access to Funds for ‘Distressed’ Providers

A politically connected medical group in the Bronx garnered an unusual benefit in the new state budget – access to money previously reserved for financially troubled safety-net hospitals and nursing homes. Read More

Hochul’s ‘Pay and Resolve’ Push for Hospitals Triggers Déjà Vu

Two years ago last week, I wrote in the Daily News about how then-Governor Andrew Cuomo was pushing a costly change to insurance law on behalf of a hospital group that had supported his campaign through a fund-rai Read More