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Pataki Signs Upgraded Freedom of Information Law

By Mark Scott

Albany, NY – Governor George Pataki signed a bill into law Tuesday that will strengthen the public's right to know.

The Governor says changes will end delays by state and municipal officials in releasing public information under the state Freedom of Information Law. Pataki says the measure will now require the government to grant or deny a written request within 20 days of its receipt.

"I think this will go a long way, by not just providing information on public agencies around the state, but by making sure it is done in a timely manner," Pataki said.

Previously, state and local governments could take months or years to release documents to the public. Robert Freeman, the executive director of the Committee on Open Government in New York, welcomed the new law. He said he hopes it will influence leaders in the Bush Administration and Republican-controlled Congress to ease their recent move to more secrecy.

"The federal Freedom of Information Act has been damaged in so many ways in recent years by federal government agencies," Freeman said. "It's very difficult and time consuming to attempt to get records from the federal government.

"I'm hoping that with the enactment of this legislation in New York that we'll be turning the tide."

The bill was signed on the same day public watchdog groups were lobbying lawmakers for more reform in state government. The groups targeted lobbying, the budget process, the awarding of state contracts and public authorities as major areas in need of reform.