Relates to expanding the definition of "public body".
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the public officers law, in relation to the definition of a "public body"
PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: This bill will require that entities with two or more members created by executive order of the governor are subject to the Open Meetings Law.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section one of the bill amends subdivision two of section 102 of the public officers law to require that entities consisting of two or more members created by executive order of the Governor are included in the definition of a "public body" and therefore subject to the provisions of the Open Meetings Law. Section two of the bill provides the effective date.
JUSTIFICATION: Executive Order 3 from January 1, 2007, states, "It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that the public business be performed in an open and public manner; and the citizens of this State be fully aware of and able to observe the performances of public officials and attend and listen to the deliberations and decisions that go into the making of public policy; and the people must be able to remain informed if they are to retain control over those who are their public servants; and the Open Meetings Law requires every meeting of a public body shall be open to the general public." The above referenced Executive Order was endorsed by former Governor Eliot Spitzer in an effort to achieve openness and transparency in access to the governmental decision-making process. Notwithstanding this stated policy, the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness, created by the former Governor Spitzer under Executive Order 11 on April 23, 2007, has operated and conducted its business behind closed doors, excluding interested parties who have attempted to attend its sessions. For example, two representatives of the Nassau County Village Officials Association were asked to leave the January 23, 2008 meeting of t he Commission and, according to press reports, were told by a senior advisor to the Governor that the Commission's meetings were not subject to the State's Open Meetings Law, In addition, they were directed to an opinion furnished by the Governor's Counsel's Office. The Counsel's opinion was based on a 22 year-old State Supreme Court case, not reviewed at the appellate level, involving an advisory commission on liability insurance. The trial court held that because the advisory commission lacked power to transact public business, and had no direct impact on the functioning of the government of the state, it was not subject to the Open Meetings Law. Irrespective of that court case, the issue is not whether the proceedings of a major advisory commission must be open to the public, but whether it should be open to the public. Clearly, the work
of the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness is very significant and important, and is likely to have profound effects on the functioning of government. This commission and others similarly formed and tasked must and should be open to public scrutiny.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2009-10: Referred to Investigations & Government Operations A.11085, 2008 Referred to Rules. Same as S.7424A, 2008 passed senate.
FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect immediately.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 1772 2011-2012 Regular Sessions IN SENATE January 12, 2011 ___________Introduced by Sen. PERKINS -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Investigations and Govern- ment Operations AN ACT to amend the public officers law, in relation to the definition of a "public body" THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 2 of section 102 of the public officers law, as amended by chapter 704 of the laws of 1979 and such section as renum- bered by chapter 652 of the laws of 1983, is amended to read as follows: 2. "Public body" means any entity, for which a quorum is required in order to conduct public business and which consists of two or more members, performing a governmental function for the state or for an agency or department thereof, or for a public corporation as defined in section sixty-six of the general construction law, or committee or subcommittee or other similar body of such public body, AND ANY ENTITY CONSISTING OF TWO OR MORE MEMBERS CREATED BY EXECUTIVE ORDER OF THE GOVERNOR. S 2. This act shall take effect immediately.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD00906-01-1