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NYS Exposed: Bill that would make it easier to get info from state sits on Gov. Cuomo desk

December 08, 2017 12:01 AM

The Freedom of Information law was created 40 years ago. State lawmakers felt it was your "right" to know what the government was doing.

The law allows New Yorkers access to public records if they request a copy from the government agency that has the information.

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The problem is when an agency says your request has been denied.

More than two years ago, the state announced the companies that would be allowed to distribute medical marijuana in New York.

At the same time, News10NBC requested the list of all the companies that applied for those licenses. Thursday, we still haven't received the information and it's not a unique story.

"We have requests that have been delayed and extended in some cases as many as ten times," says Mike Elmendorf, president of Associated General Contractors of New York State.

Elmendorf is the head of the association of general contractors. He's filed over 80 Freedom of Information requests.

He has even gone to court over his right to the information, and won. In two cases, the agencies admitted they never even had the information.

"You shouldn't have to go sue them to get an acknowledgment that what you're asking for doesn't exist," says Elmendorf.

In June, state lawmakers passed a bill that could make it easier to fight denied requests. The bill would force the state to pay your legal fees in cases that the judge rules in favor of releasing the requested information.

But that bill has yet to be signed by the governor. It's currently on his desk awaiting a decision, but Cuomo vetoed a similar bill just last year.

"I do think that there is perhaps a greater degree of sensitivity, but it's not so different from predecessor administrations," says Bob Freeman, NYS Committee on Open Government.

Governor Andrew Cuomo promised, "I will lift the veil of secrecy that now surrounds Albany and I will communicate in every way I can. In ways never used before."

In his inaugural speech, Governor Cuomo promised transparency. Advocates say he has a chance to follow through on that promise, by signing this bill -- but it's similar to one he vetoed last year.

"It should not be that difficult for citizens, media, stakeholders, anybody to get insight to what their government is doing," says Elmendorf.

The governor's office says the bill is still under review. But in the past has told News10NBC, "Our records access officers always work hard to expedite the process when possible and any insinuation otherwise represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the process."

 

NYS Exposed: Bill that would make it easier to get info from state sits on Gov. Cuomo desk

The Freedom of Information law was created 40 years ago. State lawmakers felt it was your "right" to know what the government was doing.

The law allows New Yorkers access to public records if they request a copy from the government agency that has the information.

The problem is when an agency says your request has been denied.

More than two years ago, the state announced the companies that would be allowed to distribute medical marijuana in New York.

At the same time, News10NBC requested the list of all the companies that applied for those licenses. Thursday, we still haven't received the information and it's not a unique story.

"We have requests that have been delayed and extended in some cases as many as ten times," says Mike Elmendorf, president of Associated General Contractors of New York State.

Elmendorf is the head of the association of general contractors. He's filed over 80 Freedom of Information requests.

He has even gone to court over his right to the information, and won. In two cases, the agencies admitted they never even had the information.

"You shouldn't have to go sue them to get an acknowledgment that what you're asking for doesn't exist," says Elmendorf.

In June, state lawmakers passed a bill that could make it easier to fight denied requests. The bill would force the state to pay your legal fees in cases that the judge rules in favor of releasing the requested information.

But that bill has yet to be signed by the governor. It's currently on his desk awaiting a decision, but Cuomo vetoed a similar bill just last year.

"I do think that there is perhaps a greater degree of sensitivity, but it's not so different from predecessor administrations," says Bob Freeman, NYS Committee on Open Government.

Governor Andrew Cuomo promised, "I will lift the veil of secrecy that now surrounds Albany and I will communicate in every way I can. In ways never used before."

In his inaugural speech, Governor Cuomo promised transparency. Advocates say he has a chance to follow through on that promise, by signing this bill -- but it's similar to one he vetoed last year.

"It should not be that difficult for citizens, media, stakeholders, anybody to get insight to what their government is doing," says Elmendorf.

The governor's office says the bill is still under review. But in the past has told News10NBC, "Our records access officers always work hard to expedite the process when possible and any insinuation otherwise represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the process."

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