screen-shot-2015-04-29-at-4-42-09-pm-290x300-2540706If you’ve spent any time at a little league baseball or soccer game, or any children’s sporting event, you know the cry of “hustle up” means move faster. It’s a way adults try to keep the game moving—and remind the players of what they ought to be doing.

The “hustle up” principle also applies to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).  After all, the essence of any game is action—when movement stops, the game becomes pointless.

New York’s public access-to-records laws are pretty good by national standards. Of course there’s always room for improvement, and we’ve suggested some changes that would inject a little more hustle into the process.

Another tweak—currently working its way through the legislature—would significantly reduce the delay in getting access to information after a judge’s ruling in an Article 78 proceeding (i.e., a lawsuit against a government entity). As the law stands, an agency wishing to appeal an adverse decision in a FOIL case can take up to 10 months–one month to decide if it’ll appeal and then up to nine months to submit the appeal. The proposed bill would cut the time to file an appeal from nine to two months (still plenty of time get an appeal together). It passed the Assembly unanimously in March, and now awaits a floor vote in the Senate.

Add those 10 months to the rest of the process and it can be well over a year, or even years, before the data is released–assuming the FOILer hasn’t already given up by that point.

For example, last month, a Supreme Court justice in Brooklyn ruled in favor of an Empire Center position that public pension information should be made available for taxpayer inspection. The language in the decision was unequivocal: release the data. But the plaintiff in the case could take up to 10 months to get an appeal in. Our original FOIL was filed on May 6, 2014. If the defendant milks the process to the fullest extent, the earliest we receive the data will be May 2016.

The Committee On Open Government’s 2014 annual report notes, “because access delayed is often the equivalent of access denied, we recommend that FOIL be amended.”

Or, even more succinctly, hustle up.

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

State Budget Back in the Red

Historically large budgetary surpluses inherited by Governor Hochul are now just a memory with New York facing projected gaps of $13.7 Billion Read More

New York Doesn’t Need the Build Public Renewables Act

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called for a special hearing this Thursday to get more input on the Build Public Renewables Act. Read More

The dangers of Governor Hochul’s endless ’emergencies’

Last week, Governor Hochul extended one of her two pandemic-related emergency orders into its ninth month – an action so routine and non-urgent that her office issued no press release. Five days later, an expose in the Times Union showed why casually overusing emergency powers can be a bad idea. Read More

Pandemic deaths in New York nursing homes show no correlation with staffing levels

Nursing home staffing levels remained an unreliable indicator of Covid-19 risk for residents through the second year of the pandemic. Read More

Hochul faces a test on health insurance costs

With judicious use of her veto pen this month, Governor Hochul could draw a line against spiraling health expenses for consumers and taxpayers. Several health insurance-related bill Read More

Another Hochul To-Do: Timely Financial Reporting

The state will spend a record $212 billion in the current 2022 Fiscal Year, under the budget its elected leaders adopted in April. Read More

A Study of COVID-19 in Nursing Homes Raises Doubt About New York’s Minimum Staffing Law

A newly published study of COVID-19 in nursing homes links larger numbers of employees to higher rates of infection and death for residents – raising fresh doubts about New York's recently enacted "safe staffing" law. Read More

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!