Bill S6593-2013

Makes the port authority of New York and New Jersey subject to certain freedom of information laws

Makes the port authority of New York and New Jersey subject to certain freedom of information laws.

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  • Feb 11, 2014: REFERRED TO INVESTIGATIONS AND GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS

Memo

BILL NUMBER:S6593

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the public officers law and chapter 154 of the laws of 1921 relating to the port authority of New York and New Jersey, in relation to making the port authority of New York and New Jersey subject to certain freedom of information laws

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: This bill, the Port Authority Open Government Act, subjects the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to New York State's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and New Jersey's Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS:

Section 1 amends Section 86 of the Public Officers Law to explicitly include the Port Authority of New York & Jersey in the definition of "agency" for the purposes of FOIL.

Section 2 amends Chapter 154 of the laws of 1921 to add a new Article XV-B stating that the Port Authority is subject to the provisions of FOIL and OPRA.

Section 3 states that the bill shall take effect upon the enactment of legislation having an identical effect by the state of New Jersey, or, if such legislation has already been enacted, immediately.

JUSTIFICATION: Under prevailing case law, the Port Authority is not subject either to New York's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) or New Jersey's Open Public Records Act (OPRA). Instead, requests from the public and press for government records from the Port Authority are considered under the Port Authority's self-promulgated internal "Freedom of Information Code" (FOI Code).

The Port Authority's FOI Code is an insufficient guarantee of public access. Because it is policy, rather than law, it can be altered without legislative oversight, and inconvenient or politically sensitive requests can be ignored without consequence, as no state courts appear to have clear jurisdiction to appeal a denial of an FOI Code request.

As recent events have demonstrated, there is a pressing need for transparency and accountability at the Port Authority in order to help restore public confidence in the agency. This bill will close a loophole in the law that exempts the Port Authority from standard access to government records and ensure that the public has the same right to information from the Port Authority as it does from any other state agency or authority. The New York Department of State's Committee on Open Government supports legislation that would accomplish this goal as stated in its December 2013 report Solidifying a Culture of Openness.

Any laws affecting the Port Authority must be enacted by both New York and New Jersey. This bill explicitly subjects the Port Authority to both FOIL and OPRA, having the same effect as legislation that has already been introduced in New Jersey.

PRIOR LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: None.

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS: None.

EFFECTIVE DATE: The bill shall take effect upon the enactment of legislation having an identical effect by the state of New Jersey, or, if such legislation has already been enacted, immediately.


Text

STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 6593 IN SENATE February 11, 2014 ___________
Introduced by Sen. HOYLMAN -- 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 and chapter 154 of the laws of 1921 relating to the port authority of New York and New Jersey, in relation to making the port authority of New York and New Jersey subject to certain freedom of information laws THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Subdivision 3 of section 86 of the public officers law, as added by chapter 933 of the laws of 1977, is amended to read as follows: 3. "Agency" means any state or municipal department, board, bureau, division, commission, committee, public authority, public corporation, council, office or other governmental entity performing a governmental or proprietary function for the state or any one or more municipalities thereof, INCLUDING THE PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY, except the judiciary or the state legislature. S 2. Section 1 of chapter 154 of the laws of 1921, relating to the port authority of New York and New Jersey, is amended by adding a new article XV-B to read as follows: ARTICLE XV-B THE PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY SHALL BE SUBJECT TO THE PROVISIONS OF NEW YORK PUBLIC OFFICERS LAW SECTIONS 84-90, COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW, AND TO THE PROVISIONS OF NEW JERSEY P.L. 1963, C.73 (C.47: 1A-1 ET SEQ.), COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE OPEN PUBLIC RECORDS ACT. S 3. This act shall take effect upon the enactment into law by the state of New Jersey of legislation having an identical effect with this act, but if the state of New Jersey shall have already enacted such legislation, then it shall take effect immediately; provided, however, the state of New Jersey shall notify the legislative bill drafting commission upon the occurrence of the enactment of the provisions provided for in this act in order that the commission may maintain an accurate and timely effective data base of the official text of the laws of the state of New York in furtherance of effecting the provisions of section 44 of the legislative law and section 70-b of the public offi- cers law.

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