NYS Earns Grade B For Accessibility Of Information About Executive Orders

Aug 18, 2014

Governors issue executive orders for various issues, such as weather disasters, new educational mandates and drilling for gas on state land.  New York State ranks high when it comes to making information about executive orders available online.

Credit Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

The power of the executive order is a hot topic at the U.S. federal level. In his 2014 State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama touted the executive order as a means to achieve his policy objectives despite an uncooperative Congress.

Emily Shaw is National Policy Manager with the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan nonprofit entity based in Washington DC, which has given New York a Grade 'B' for accessibility of information about executive orders.   "Making sure that people have access to their executive orders is, we think, a really important quality in ensuring governmental openness and transparency."

Blair Horner is with the New York Public Interest Research Group.   "It's important that the public have easy access to executive orders because they have the force of law. The governor can issue an executive order within state law and state constitutional limits, similar to what the president can do and it's been debated nationally. And so the ease of which the public can have access to those laws is critically important and the Sunlight Foundation found that New York does a reasonably good job in that area."

The Sunlight Foundation found that forty-nine of fifty state governors post executive orders from their administration online on the website of either the governor, the Secretary of State or the state library. Shaw explains New York makes executive order information available in two formats, HTML and PDF.   "Those are pretty good actually for humans looking to navigate themselves to the site and read through them because they're both formats that humans can read. But if you wanted make those executive orders available for more comprehensive use and indexing, we'd like to see executive orders made available in structured formats."

New York Governors have issued 163 executive orders since 2009, many of them available online. 

New York would have been graded A had it made executive orders available in structured format - a type of document easily indexable by search engine. Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont earned 'C' grades: Pennsylvania and New Jersey also achieved 'B''s. Here's a link to the full report.