Legislation will require public disclosure of executive orders and memoranda of understanding
Council also votes to bring City’s electrical code in line with national electrical code standards

June 14, 2011, New York, New York – Today, the City Council will vote on a bill that will require the Mayor’s office to post executive orders and memoranda of understanding (MOUs) online. This transparency bill will help the public search for and access information that was previously only accessible with a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request.

The Council will also vote on a bill that will make changes to the city’s electrical code in order to ensure that the code is brought in line with national standards. Specifically, the electrical code will adopt the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC), along with amendments specific to the needs of New York City. The City will continue to review and update the electrical code on a regular cycle.

Finally, the Council will vote on two resolutions intended help victims of domestic violence and create stiffer penalties for abusers.

Increasing Public Access to City Documents

Legislation voted on today will require the mayor’s office to make all executive orders and most memoranda of understanding available to the public via the city’s website. Executive orders that have been issued since January 1, 1974 and MOUs entered into since July 1, 2010 will be covered by this law.

Currently, executive order documents dating back to 2004 are only accessible either through a FOIL request or through a third party website, but were not available on the City’s website. MOUs are occasionally available on agency websites, but there is no uniform process or official place where the documents can be found.

Under the new legislation, beginning in July 2011 the administration will also have to submit newly-enacted executive orders to the City Council as well as posting them on the city’s website.

“The public should have access to how the City operates and not have to go through an arduous process just to get to information that they want,” said Speaker Quinn. “Now, with a click of a button that information will be right at their fingertips instead of waiting for weeks to get information that they are entitled to.”

“Transparency and openness are integral to an informed populace and an effective government,” said Council Member Gale Brewer. “This legislation would provide clarity to an aspect of the political process that is oft-utilized but little understood by the general public. By posting executive orders and memoranda of understanding online, we are opening up these documents to the general public and shedding light on agreements amongst government agencies. I would like to thank the Administration and the Speaker for their support of this bill.”

“Great transparency is always beneficial for citizens and better for government, said CM Fernando Cabrera, Chair of the Committee on Technology. “Getting a clearer picture of the inner workings of govt. is better for efficiency and I look forward to supporting this bill.”

Certain categories of MOUs may be withheld from disclosure: those that would hamper law enforcement or emergency response operations, or impair the City’s ability to enter into such agreements.

Overhauling the City’s Electrical Code

The City will also vote on technical and administrative amendments to the City’s electrical code that will bring the code up to date with the National Electrical Code (NEC), which is updated every three years.

Some of the administrative amendments to the City’s Electrical Code will include:
• Revising licensee’s business requirements;
• Authorizing the suspension of electrical permits without notice in cases of imminent peril to life or property; and
• Permitting the Environmental Control Board to settle violations for infractions of the Code.

Technical amendments to the code include:
• Defining the arrangement of circuit wiring to prevent or minimize short circuiting;
• Adopting fire alarm system requirements for power and wiring;
• Requiring that sidewalk shed lighting installations must comply with electrical requirements; and
• Allowing a detailed diagram of solar photovoltaic systems to be made available to the Department of Buildings rather than requiring such systems to be approved by a national lab, thereby reducing the cost of installing these alternative energy systems.

“Proposed Int. No. 64-A would update the current Electrical Code by adopting the 2008 version of the National Electrical Code, or NEC, along with some New York City specific amendments,” said Council Member Erik Martin Dilan, Chair of the Housing & Buildings Committee. “With the passage of this bill, we continue the Council’s commitment to keeping all of our construction related codes in line with the latest national standards to ensure that construction and building in New York City is safe, efficient and cost effective,” added Council Member Dilan.

This bill will apply to work performed beginning July 1, 2011. However, through December 31, 2011, electrical work may be performed either in accordance with either the old or new code at the discretion of the authorized person performing the work.

Assisting Victims of Domestic Violence

Last, the Council will vote on two resolutions intended to help victims of domestic violence.

The first resolution calls on the State Legislature to extend the maximum length of time a victim of domestic violence can stay in a city emergency shelter program of no less than 180 days. Currently, the State’s Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) mandates that the Human Resources Administration (HRA) provide emergency shelter services to domestic violence victims for up to 90 days to a total maximum of 135 days. With an extra 45 days it will give domestic violence victims more time to obtain medical care and housing.

“Victims of domestic violence often have very few resources they can rely on when trying to escape their abusers and face serious barriers on their path to safety and self-sufficiency,” said Council Member Annabel Palma, Chair of the Council’s Committee on General Welfare. “Last year, over 11,000 individuals were served by domestic violence shelters, with only about 20% of these individuals able to leave the shelter system and find permanent housing before they had reached the maximum stay time of 135 days. Resolution 817 calls on the State to extend the maximum length of stay to no less than 180 days for victims of domestic violence, which will allow them more time to find permanent housing and connect to crucial services.”

The second resolution calls on the State to increase penalties when domestic violence offender is convicted of two or more specified domestic violence offenses within five years, regardless of whether it is the same or a different victim.

“We have been hearing and reading about victims of Domestic violence for too long and this year more than any we have seen it on the front cover of our papers. But what about those who are fortunate enough to call themselves survivors; there is always the fear that the abuser will do something in the future. The creation of an E Felony for repeat offenders in Domestic Violence cases will send a sweeping message – your actions will have harsher consequences,” stated Council Member Ferreras, chair of the Women’s Issues Committee.”

Some domestic violence abusers are repeat offenders, committing multiple acts of violence against their victims. Under existing New York laws, a domestic violence offender faces the same punishment whether he or she is convicted of a first misdemeanor domestic violence offense or a fifth misdemeanor domestic violence offense. In New York alone, there were 622 individuals convicted of two or more domestic violence offenses between 2004 and 2009.