2005 Legislative Report from the
NYS Assembly Committee on

Sheldon Silver, Speaker • RoAnn Destito, Chair • Summer 2005
Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito
“As Chair of the Standing Committee on Governmental Operations, I would like to take this opportunity to provide an update on the activities of the Committee. The Committee has had a productive year, working diligently on a number of issues, including procurement lobbying reform, ethics reform, and ensuring the public’s right to know by strengthening the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). If you have any questions on any information contained in this newsletter, would like copies of legislation, or would like to share any ideas or concerns, please feel free to contact my office at (518) 455-5454.”

RoAnn Destito, Chair
Assembly Committee on
Governmental Operations

Crime Victims Package

In recognition of Crime Victims Week, April 10-16, the Committee reported and the Assembly passed legislation to help crime victims and their families regain control of their lives.

The legislative package covered a wide range of victim assistance issues, including bills that would:

  • ensure that crime victims are aware of opportunities to stay informed about the status of their offender. This measure would require the District Attorney to consult with victims of violent crimes on the disposition of their case, notify victims of the final disposition of a case, and ensure that District Attorneys of the county where the incarcerated inmate was prosecuted be notified of the release of the inmate (A.714-B - Pheffer, Destito; Chapter 186 of the Laws of 2005);

  • remove the cap on home values for deduction purposes in determining the net financial resources of claimants when determining if a victim is eligible for reimbursement by the Crime Victims Board (CVB) (A.4466-A - DiNapoli, Canestrari; Chapter 322 of the Laws of 2005);

  • expand compensation available from CVB to cover the relocation expenses of victims (A.8526 - Weinstein, Destito; Chapter 377 of the Laws of 2005);

  • expand compensation available from CVB to help child victims who experienced an exacerbation of a pre-existing condition or disability (A.6717 - Paulin, Destito; Chapter 408 of the Laws of 2005);

  • ensure that crime victims are informed of the assistance available to them through the CVB by requiring police officers and district attorneys to provide information to crime victims (A.3691 - Destito);

  • expedite the CVB claims process, giving priority to emergency claims (A.4195 - DiNapoli);

  • create an ombudsman to investigate complaints and assist victims through the claims process (A.3577 - DiNapoli);

  • provide victims whose claims are dismissed by the CVB with a statement of reasons of the decision (A.1236 - Dinowitz);

  • require at least one member of the Crime Victims Board to be a health care provider experienced in treating crime victims (A.4194 - DiNapoli);

  • create a victims’ assistance program that would require all CVB members to take a course in crime victim assistance (A.3690 - Destito);

  • make parents and guardians who experience loss of earnings due to the hospitalization of a child victim eligible for a crime victims award (A.2941 - Diaz, R.);

  • enable crime victims to be reimbursed by the CVB for transportation costs for necessary court appearances (A.5512 - Ortiz); and

  • allocate fines imposed on violators of the state antitrust laws to the CVB, putting more money into the programs that help victims recover (A.257 - Destito).

Procurement Lobbying Reform
photo The Governmental Operations Committee.
On January 10, 2005, the Assembly majority outlined a government reform agenda and made it clear that procurement lobbying reform was a legislative priority for the 2005 session. A.8964 will make the billions of taxpayer dollars spent on government contracts subject to more accountability and greater scrutiny, thus restoring the public’s confidence in state government.

This bill would expand the definition of lobbying to include efforts to influence a public official regarding the procurement contracts. It would also encompass efforts to influence executive orders or tribal-state compact agreements. In addition, a restricted contact period would be instituted for all state procurement contracts, beginning from the time a request for proposal is issued until a contract is awarded. During that period, communications regarding a noticed procurement could only be directed to a designated contact officer. A.8964 was signed into law as Chapter 1 of the Laws of 2005.

Strengthening the Public’s Right to Know

Adding More Sunshine to State Actions

The Committee reported and the Assembly passed a four bill package of legislation to strengthen the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and Open Meetings Law to ensure that the public has access to the decision making process. A.6714 passed both houses and was signed into law. The Senate has not yet acted on the other three bills. The bills would:
  • address a problem that arose when state agencies failed to acknowledge FOIL requests which under prior law was not interpreted as a denial; therefore, the person requesting the records could not appeal the failure to produce those records to a court. In order to address the problem, the Committee reported legislation that deems the failure of an agency to comply with a request to constitute a denial, enabling the denied party to submit a written appeal. This legislation also places the burden on the agency to prove that the requested record falls within the classes of information exempt from FOIL. This change is significant as it will prevent agencies from being non-responsive to FOIL requests. A.6714 (Destito, Cook) was passed by both houses and signed into law as Chapter 22 of the laws of 2005;

  • enable agencies and municipalities, to the extent practicable, to receive and respond to FOIL requests by e-mail (A.7993 - Latimer);

  • discourage the State from denying public access to records by providing the courts with greater authority to award attorney’s fees in those instances in which an agency improperly denied access to records (A.1675 - Grannis);

photo Chairwoman Destito delivers remarks at the FOIL Reform bill signing ceremony.
  • strengthen the Open Meetings Law by providing alternative judicial remedies to the courts when any aspect of a meeting is closed in violation of the Law. Courts would be authorized to impose a $500 fine on the public body that engaged in the violation and would be able to state or remand an action back to the public body (A.1258 - John).

Prompt Payment on State Contracts
with Not-For-Profit Organizations

New York’s prompt contracting law was designed to ensure the timely approval and payment of state contracts with not-for-profit service providers. However, an audit by the State Comptroller discovered that over ninety percent of contracts in a survey sample were approved after the time period allowed by the 1991 law. The failure to have contracts approved and completed in a timely manner has had a significant adverse impact on not-for-profit service providers and on the New Yorkers that rely on the services provided by the not-for-profit community.

To address the issue, the Assembly passed A.3454-A (Bing) to provide an adequate remedy to organizations when state agencies fail to meet the statutory deadlines and to encourage compliance with the law. It would authorize the State Comptroller to survey annually state agency compliance with the prompt contracting law, grant the Comptroller authority to review waivers of the prompt contracting law, permit the Comptroller to assess interest owed to an organization if a state agency has missed statutory deadlines, and provide for the reimbursement pursuant to existing contracts if a state agency fails to provide the required ninety day notice of intent to end a contract.

This bill passed both houses, but was vetoed by the Governor.

Days of Commemoration

Days of commemoration honor people or events that have had a profound impact on New York State. This year, the Committee reported and the Assembly passed A.5830-C (Perry, Silver) which would commemorate the life of Shirley Chisholm on November 30th. This bill was signed into law as Chapter 445 of the Laws of 2005.

Ethics Reform
photo Chairwoman Destito at the 2005 public protection budget table.
In order to re-establish the public’s trust in the integrity of those involved in government service, the Committee has reported and the Assembly passed A.4975-A (Destito, Cahill). This bill extends the authority of the State Ethics Commission and the Legislative Ethics Committee to address allegations of misconduct made against public employees who have left their public positions by authorizing the Commission and Committee to pursue action against the individual for one year after they have held public employment or run for office. This bill was signed into law as Chapter 165 of the Laws of 2005.

Assemblymember RoAnn Destito, Chair
Assembly Committee on Governmental Operations
Room 621 LOB • Albany, NY 12248 • 518.455.5454

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