Assemblywoman Paulin’s Bill to Increase Government Transparency Passes the Assembly

Assemblywoman Paulin’s bill (A72-A), which requires certain records to be made available before public hearings, passed the Assembly on Monday, March 14, 2011.

The bill requires that public bodies covered by the Open Meetings Law make records available that are scheduled to be discussed at the body’s next meeting. If the agency maintains a website, the records will be posted on it as soon as practicable prior to the meeting. By allowing the public to review records before they are discussed, the bill creates greater opportunity for public involvement.

These records are already considered public information under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). However, the documents are usually only available after a FOIL request has been filed. Responding to a FOIL request is both time-consuming and expensive. Thus, this bill will produce significant savings for public agencies by reducing the number of FOIL requests that need to be processed.

“Prior access to records allows people to prepare for and follow along at public meetings. Simply put, this bill makes government more accessible to the average citizen” said Assemblywoman Paulin.

The Assembly passed a package of four bills to commemorate the sixth annual Sunshine Week. Occurring every year in mid-March, Sunshine Week is a national, non-partisan initiative to educate the public about the importance of open government and freedom of information.