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Bill to speed up review of secrecy claims making its way through Legislature

Your Right to Know

Bill to speed up review of secrecy claims making its way through Legislature

A bill that would speed up judicial review of cases in which businesses attempt to keep public information from the citizens is apparently making its way through the Legislature, and lawmakers are showing signs it might get approved before the end of the legislative session later this month.

The bill (A414/S4685) has passed the Senate and has just reached the floor of the Assembly, according to Diane Kennedy, head of the New York News Publishers Association, who described it as “a very good FOIL bill.” 

What this legislation is designed to do is prevent businesses from using the courts to tie up the release of records that a government body has deemed a public record.

What they’re doing is actually the opposite of what usually happens — the governments usually get taken to court to release documents they want to keep secret. In these cases, the businesses — claiming they would suffer substantial injury to their competitive position if a document was released — actually sue the government to keep records secret.

The time spent in the courts often delays the release of the information until it’s no longer useful to the public, as well as costs taxpayers money in legal expenses.

This legislation doesn’t attempt to decide the merits of such claims. But it does require that a proceeding to stop disclosure of a record be given preference by the courts and heard in an expedited manner.

That way, businesses could no longer use the courts as their own personal tool for keeping secrets from the public.

This is important legislation for your right to know, and it’s good to see it’s getting the attention it deserves from our state representatives.