Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a bill that would require documents that are discussed at public meetings to be released before the meeting, according to a memo from the New York News Publishers Association.
It's a great bill for journalists who are contending with government boards that don't want you to know stuff. The Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority, for example, didn't release its 2011 budget until the meeting on which the budget was voted on had started. That makes it hard for a journalist like me, or an interested, engaged citizen like you, to ask pertinent questions at the meeting and hold officials accountable for what they're voting on.
The bill takes effect 30 days after it's signed, and according to the Jan. 3 press release, it was signed very recently, so later this month or in early February, you'll be able to demand more documents from government bodies.
The problem with these open government measures, of course, is that they often lack teeth, or the teeth are not sufficiently sharp, as city editor Perry White wrote. When a public body kicks the public out and does so without proper justification, there is little recourse other than to call a state official and have a headline somewhere on the inside of the paper that says, "State official questions legality of closed meeting."