A new state law taking effect February 2nd will require town boards, county legislatures and other public bodies to post proposed laws, resolutions, policies and other documents on their websites and better the aim of governmental transparency.
This new law, which we passed last June, was just signed into law by the Governor on January 3, 2012. It applies to any government entities with regularly updated websites and high-speed Internet service. Citizens will now be able to review public documents before they are discussed in open meetings.
Under the new law, municipal boards, school boards and other public review boards must make meeting agendas available on the agency's website within 24 hours of the scheduled meeting time. Meeting minutes must be posted within two weeks of the meeting. The law also requires documents discussed at meetings to be posted online, with exemptions for documents that would be too time consuming or expensive to copy.
Now that most governments are finally in the ‘Internet Age,’ there should be no reason why public documents can’t be posted on-line prior to their being discussed in an open meeting.
Because in some cases local governments may simply not have the manpower or time to get their documents up prior to a public meeting, there is a provision in the law requiring documents be copied or posted “to the extent practicable as determined by the agency or the department.” Nevertheless, most local governments and other public bodies should be able to comply with the new law.
It is our intent to help citizens better understand what their governments are doing, while public officials should receive more citizen input. This law will also allow governments to save money and time later on by cutting down on the number of FOIL requests they receive.
The law covers boards with lots of public documents coming before them, including planning boards, industrial development agencies, school boards and legislative committees.