As we noted on October 27th, the Heart Corporation, which owns the Times Union, recently won a lawsuit against New York’s legislative leaders--the State Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature must publicly provide records of member items. Assembly Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Bruno have decided not to appeal the decision, and both the Senate and Assembly have pledged to begin making these records available within the month.
The New York Times pointed out this morning that the Senate began complying with the court order last Wednesday, and records from fiscal years 2003-04 and 2004-05 are currently available on their website. The files, labeled "Community Projects Fund," are monstrous, so we recommend right-clicking and saving the files to your disk first rather than trying to open them directly from the site. The Senate is expected to produce the more current records in the next few weeks.
The Assembly website currently features “Legislative Initiatives” documents, but these files only provide information about the recipients of member items, not about the individual legislators that earmarked the funding. The Times reported that the Assembly is slated to release detailed records today.
A Journal News editorial suggested that an individual lawmaker’s member items should be listed on his or her website. We admit that the Senate’s first attempt at public disclosure is a bit clumsy, and we hope to see the Senate make an effort to streamline these files.
It’s great to see the Legislature moving to make the legislative process more transparent, even if they are simply complying with a court order. Hopefully, this is just the first in a series of moves to provide the public with the information necessary to finally hold their representatives accountable for their actions.