New York Governor – Transparency to Public Records

Governor Hochul Announces New Actions to Increase Transparency and Access to Public Records

New York (STL.News) Governor Kathy Hochul announced that New York State is moving forward with improvements to the process of responding to public records requests.  Building on efforts announced in October to streamline the Freedom of Information Law process, including directing agencies to proactively post commonly-requested documents online and allowing agencies to respond to FOIL requests without Executive Chamber review, Governor Hochul has directed the New York State Office of Information Technology Services to issue a Request for Quotes to secure a software platform which will accelerate and streamline the State’s process for receiving, processing and responding to FOIL requests.  The announcement comes during Sunshine Week, an opportunity to spotlight efforts to increase openness and transparency in government.

“On my first day in office, I pledged to turn the page on the old ways of Albany and restore New Yorkers’ faith in their government, “Governor Hochul said.  “We’re taking meaningful action to streamline the process to access public records, so journalists and members of the public can more easily access information to which they are entitled.  While there’s always more work to do, I’m proud of the steps my administration has taken to increase transparency and accountability in New York State government.”

In October 2021, Governor Hochul announced 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 theHochul Administration.  Agencies are no longer 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 are also required to take 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.  The Executive Chamber is reviewing agency requests to fill FOIL staffing and software capacity needs, as well as provide FOIL trainings to all state agencies.

Based on preliminary data, more than 400 FOIL requests have been processed and completed by the Executive Chamber since Governor Hochul took office.  The Hochul Administration has processed and completed more FOIL requests over the past seven months than in all of 2019 (323 requests completed) and all of 2020 (368 requests completed).

Building on this progress, the Office of Information Technology Services today took the next step in the procurement process by issuing an RFQ for a software platform which will serve to accelerate and streamline the State’s process for receiving, processing and responding to FOIL requests. Such a software platform will be a major step toward increasing transparency and timely access to public records.  The new software platform will use technology to streamline the receipt, processing and response to FOIL requests, thus allowing a more efficient and expeditious process.  Now that the RFQ is issued, ITS expects a contract to be finalized in the coming weeks.

NYS Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) Chief Information Officer Angelo “Tony” Riddick said, “Today’s announcement is a major step forward for all New Yorkers who believe that state government should be open, honest, transparent and accountable.  I commend Governor Hochul for her commitment to breaking down the barriers to sharing information and data with the public in a timely way.  ITS is proud to assist the Governor in executing her vision of what is possible when openness and transparency becomes the rule and not the exception.”

This announcement is the latest effort from Governor Hochul to increase transparency, accountability and ethics in state government.  In her State of the State address, Governor Hochul announced proposals to reform the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and institute term limits and outside income bans for statewide elected officials.  Weeks after taking office, Governor Hochul publicly released transparency plans from more than 70 state agencies, recusal policies for top State officials, and instituted new human resources policies to protect employees across state government and within the Executive Chamber from discrimination and harassment.