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New York Senate Bill to Speed up FOIL Requests

by Kevin W. Bliss

New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed Senate Bill S6017 into law March 18, 2022. The Bill, retroactive to December 29, 2021, repeals the state’s Cvil Rights Law subsection 50-a and eliminates the need for a judicial hearing for a public records request under the Freedom of Information Law (“FOIL”). Now all that is required for an agency to deny a FOIL request under the law enforcement protection exception is for the agency evaluating the request to receive confirmation from the investigating agency that release of the information would hinder investigations or endanger lives.

Hochul took office in 2021 promising to bring more transparency to state agencies after the state’s previous Governor, Andrew Cuomo, was criticized for stalling FOIL requests by requiring them to pass the Executive Chamber for review before being processed. The Bill was passed according to its proponents to speed up the processing of a FOIL request and ensure that those being denied are given valid justification for their denial.

Under the new Bill, state agencies are required to give specific reasons for a FOIL denial and subject to agreement for those reasons from the investigating agency. It also requires state agencies to identify and post online frequently requested documents, circumventing the need for a FOIL request. Hochul has directed the Office of Information Technology and Services to upgrade their computer operating systems to decrease response time and increase effectiveness of this plan.

“On my first day in office, I pledged to turn the page on the old ways of Albany and restore New Yorkers’ faith in their government,” stated Hochul. “We’re taking meaningful action to streamline the process to access public records, so journalists and members of the public can more easily access information to which they are entitled.”

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