Data available to the public under the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) would be proactively disclosed on the Internet under model legislation developed by the Empire Center for Public Policy.

The See-Through Government Transparency Act would update FOIL by requiring state and local government agencies to post on a single database the records they are now required to release in response to FOIL requests, including payrolls, expenditures, contracts for purchases and services, collective bargaining agreements and annual reports.

A copy of the model legislation and memorandum in support can be downloaded here.

“New Yorkers shouldn’t have to get bogged in an imperfect FOIL system when trying to access public information that could already be availably online,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center. “Government entities should be keeping up with the advances in technology.” 

Under the proposal, the state Committee on Open Government and state comptroller’s office would develop guidelines for the disclosure of public information on a website managed by the state comptroller’s office, which would save local governments the expense of creating their own websites and help make data easier to find by compiling it all in one place.

New York Public Interest Group research coordinator Bill Mahoney noted, “Proactive disclosure of state information in the 21st century is a no-brainer. A modernized FOIL would increase the efficiency of New York’s government, save taxpayers money and boost access to information collected by the state. In the digital era, there is no need for state agencies to expend time replying to requests for information or for citizens to face lengthy delays after submitting a FOIL request.”

“This important transparency bill includes a number of much needed upgrades to FOIL,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany. “We especially support making consultant reports and labor contracts subject to public disclosure, and mandating that court costs are awarded when the public successfully sues to gain access to government records.”

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