Governor Hochul Announces Major Transparency Improvements to State Government
New York (STL.News) Governor Kathy Hochul announced major transparency improvements to State government that will dramatically increase access to data and information and continue the process of restoring New Yorkers’ trust in their State government. Governor Hochul published new transparency plans from more than 70 executive agencies and public authorities, announced improvements to the process for fulfilling Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, released the full recusal policies she is abiding by — believed to be the first such disclosure for a sitting Governor of New York – as well as recusal policies for the Lieutenant Governor and the Secretary to the Governor.
“From Day One, I’ve been committed to restoring New Yorkers’ faith in their government by improving transparency and increasing accountability,” Governor Hochul said. “The changes we’re announcing today bring us closer to creating the kind of government that New Yorkers deserve, and we’ll continue to build on this progress.”
Governor Hochul launched a website hosting the new transparency plans that State agencies recently provided to the Governor’s office. In these plans, agencies outlined ways to proactively increase transparency such as overhauling their websites, conducting statewide listening tours, expanding language access, and making better use of Project Sunlight and Open Data. All agency transparency plans can be viewed here. The Governor’s office will work with agencies to implement these plans and continue to promote transparency and accountability.
Additionally, Governor Hochul also announced major improvements to the FOIL process, with the goal of providing more public records on a faster timeline and reducing the backlog of thousands of FOIL requests inherited by the Hochul Administration. Agencies will no longer be required to send FOIL responses to the Executive Chamber for review, but instead will process FOIL requests directly through their agency’s General Counsel. Agencies will also be required to take immediate steps to identify and publicly post frequently requested documents and documents that have public significance, so interested parties can find relevant information without needing to file a FOIL request. Building on the Administration’s ongoing work to expedite FOIL requests, ITS plans to seek statewide technology solutions that can accelerate the speed of FOIL responses. The Executive Chamber will review agency requests to fill FOIL staffing and software capacity needs, as well as provide FOIL trainings to all state agencies.
Governor Hochul released the full recusal agreement she is abiding by to avoid conflicts of interests, as well as the recusal agreements in place for the Lieutenant Governor and Secretary to the Governor. In the agreement, Governor Hochul commits to recusing herself from any and all matters relating to Delaware North and pledges not to use her position to benefit that company’s interests. These full recusal documents, along with those related to the Lieutenant Governor and Secretary to the Governor, have been publicly released here.
Finally, fulfilling the Governor’s commitment on day one to overhaul ethics and sexual harassment training, Governor Hochul signed an Executive Order to require all state employees to take a live ethics training course upon hiring, as well as a refresher course once every three years; employees of the Executive Chamber will be required to take this refresher course once every two years. This updates and expands the ethics training policies that had been in place during previous administrations.
The reforms announced today are the latest efforts from Governor Hochul to begin a new era of ethics and transparency in State government. Earlier this week, she unveiled a new initiative to root out harassment and discrimination within the Executive Chamber and across State government. She also signed legislation requiring additional data to be published by the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and mandating that state agencies release relevant documents 24 hours in advance of any public meeting. Governor Hochul also unveiled a centralized, public COVID-19 dashboard, providing the public with additional data on cases, vaccinations, hospitalizations and more.