Access to legislative records

(The following text comes from “Your Right to Know,” a publication of New York state’s Committee on Open Government.)

Section 88 of the Freedom of Information Law applies only to the State Legislature and provides access to the following records in its possession:

(a) bills, fiscal notes, introducers’ bill memoranda, resolutions and index records;

(b) messages received from the Governor or the other house of the Legislature, as well as home rule messages;

(c) legislative notification of the proposed adoption of rules by an agency;

(d) transcripts, minutes, journal records of public sessions, including meetings of committees, subcommittees and public hearings, as well as the records of attendance and any votes taken;

(e) internal or external audits and statistical or factual tabulations of, or with respect to, material otherwise available for public inspection and copying pursuant to this section or any other applicable provision of law;

(f) administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect the public;

(g) final reports and formal opinions submitted to the Legislature;

(h) final reports or recommendations and minority or dissenting reports and opinions of members of committees, subcommittees, or commissions of the Legislature; and

(i) any other records made available by any other provision of law. In addition, each house of the Legislature must maintain and make available:

(a) a record of votes of each member in each session, committee and subcommittee meeting in which the member votes;

(b) a payroll record setting forth the name, public office address, title and salary of every officer or employee; and

(c) a current list, reasonably detailed, by subject matter of any record required to be made available by section 88.

Each house is required to issue regulations pertaining to the procedural aspects of the law. Requests should be directed to the public information officers of the respective houses.

Access to Court Records

Although the courts are not subject to the Freedom of Information Law, 255 of the Judiciary Law has long required the clerk of a court to “diligently search the files, papers, records and dockets in his office” and upon payment of a fee make copies of such items. Justice Courts are covered by 2019-a of the Uniform Justice Court Act, which states that “records and dockets of the court except as otherwise provided by law shall be at reasonable times open for inspection to the public…”.

Agencies charged with the responsibility of administering the judicial branch are not courts and therefore are treated as agencies subject to the Freedom of Information Law.

(For more information about New York state’s Open Meetings Law, visit the Department of State at https://dos.ny.gov/open-meeting-law.)

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