NORTH ROCKLAND, N.Y. -- In recognition of Sunshine Week, Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-Woodbury) announced that he helped pass several measures to improve government transparency.
Spurred by local events, Skoufis has also been fighting to pass the Integrity in Government Act, which he introduced last year.
“Every citizen has the right to know the decisions their representatives make and understand the reasons behind them,” Skoufis said. “These crucial measures clarify and strengthen the public’s right to information. However, no legislation will be strong enough until the government has the power to compel compliance.”
Skoufis authored the Integrity in Government Act which would help ensure enforcement of Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Laws.
"Presently, it is difficult and costly to seek action against a government entity that refuses to comply with important transparency measures," he said.
The bill would create a commission that would be able to fine elected officials who abuse the law, force municipalities to release records if they fail to abide by Freedom of Information Law and nullify the actions of elected boards when meetings are held secretively.
The assemblyman introduced the legislation largely in response to the village of Kiryas Joel’s history of disregard for open government laws.
The five bills the Assembly passed during Sunshine Week (March 13-19), a national initiative to improve government transparency and educate people about their right to public information, include measures that would:
- Prohibit government agencies from inappropriately using copyright claims to deny access to a public record.
- Make records in a judicial proceeding available to the public if the presiding judge determines there is no risk that the disclosure would disrupt the proceedings.
- Increase access to information by requiring state agencies to make FOIL request forms available online.
- Mandate that all political communications disclose the identity of the committee or group that finances them.
“The transparency measures the Assembly passed are critical, but we must take our commitment one step further by enabling our government to enforce these important rules,” Skoufis said. “I will continue to work toward passing the Integrity in Government Act so we can do just that.
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