New York to provide public access to database of who appears before state government


New York is launching an online, searchable database called Project Sunlight, which gives the public an in-depth view of the individuals and entities that are appearing before New York State government on non-legislative matters. Project Sunlight lists meetings between government officials and outside individuals, entities, and their internal or external representatives related to state procurement, rate-making, regulatory matters, agency-based judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, and the adoption or repeal of rules and regulations.

The initiative keeps lobbyist meetings separate. The Governor notes that lobbying appearances related to passage of the budget or legislation are not covered by Project Sunlight, as they are already the subject of regulation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics pursuant to the State’s lobbying laws. However, that separation also makes it harder for citizens to readily see and understand exactly who is going before government officials and for what purpose.

The database is the result of the state’s Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011, and has been operational since January, in a beta phase so public workers could be trained on what to post. Approximately 6,000 state employees in the covered agencies have been trained in how to report information into the database, and there are over 3,000 entries available for public search. Entries are entered on a rolling basis by employees at each agency.

No timeline was offered by the Governor’s office as to how frequent a “rolling basis,” might be.
The website will also link to the Open NY website which provides access to other government data. A statement from the Governor lists how meetings will be posted or not on the new website (click to enlarge):