Monday, April 4, 2011

Senate Bill would "Chill" Freedom Of Information

On Monday the Senate is scheduled to address a proposal (SB 2168) from Republican Sen. Martin Golden that some critics in the chamber believe will have negatively impact the freedom of information in New YOrk.
The bill would make the use of public records, secured through FOIL requests, for committing a crime a Class E felony.
Without citing any specific incidents or evidence, the bill's memo argues that FOIL requests are being abused "by convicts and others with questionable and/or harmful motives," who are using the data they obtain to commit crimes like identity theft.
The Republicans in the Senate are hoping to deter this law will have a damper on these crimes, but Democratic Sen. Dan Squadron suggested it could just scare away legitimate FOIL requests.
In March 8 Senate Codes Committee meeting, Squadron argued that ambiguities in the bill would deter people from putting in FOIL requests on the basis that their information might be used illegally by someone else. He laid out a scenario where an overzealous prosecutor might use this law to go after a media outlet with coverage he didn't like.
Shortly after Squadron described his problems with the ambiguity of the bill, he turned his focus on the intent portion of the bill, which he said would be too specific for prosecutors to get a conviction. Both arguments were rejected by Committee staff, who contended that his scenarios weren't credible.
Squadron and Sen. Bill Perkins voted without recommendation. Senators Parker and Duane voted in the negative. This bill regularly passes the Senate, but hasn't been introduced in the Assembly this session.

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