Project Sunlight, an important component of the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011, is an online database that provides the public with an opportunity to see the individuals and entities that are interacting with government decision-makers. An appearance between covered individuals related to
- Rate Making;
- Regulatory Matters;
- Judicial or Quasi-Judicial Proceedings; or
- an Adoption or Repeal of a Rule or Regulation may be reportable to the public database under the requirements of Project Sunlight.
The Office of General Services will coordinate the data base for all agencies of New York State. The Board will comply with the mandate to publicly disclose interactions covered under Project Sunlight within five business days by posting to the database. Board staff members considered covered by Project Sunlight, or have the ability to influence agency discretion are required to complete appropriate training. The information below will assist Board stakeholders in understanding the requirements under Project Sunlight.
An appearance shall mean an interaction between covered individuals that is an in person meeting or video conference.
Appearances shall not mean:
- Ministerial or informational appearances, such as communications to schedule meetings or requests for information.
- Written communications such as letters, faxes, or emails.
- Telephonic conversations.
- Appearances regarding legislation or the budget.
- Any appearance related to individuals or matters that are treated by a state entity as confidential pursuant to federal or state statute, rule or regulation.
- Any appearance that if disclosed could endanger the life or safety of any person.
- Participation in meetings which are open to the public, such as conferences or meetings subject to the Open Meetings Law or where a record of the meeting is otherwise publicly available.
- Appearances between a covered individual at a state entity and an agent of the agency, such as a consultant.
- Any appearance that if disclosed could subject an individual to a risk of retaliation or adverse employment action.
At a State Entity
An individual at the state entity who has the power to exercise agency discretion in one of the five covered categories, or advises someone who has such discretion.
A covered individual at a state entity shall not mean: Outside agents of a state agency or authority, such as retained outside counsel.
Outside of a State Entity
A covered individual outside of a state entity shall mean: Appearances by both "external" (e.g., a lobbyist) and "internal" (e.g., a general counsel) representatives of an entity, appearances by an individual appearing on behalf of him/herself, and appearances by advocacy groups or organizations or entities representing the interests or concerns of the organization or entity or of its members.
A covered individual outside of a state entity shall not mean:
- Employees of State and local agencies and authorities, as well as tribal governments and federal government representatives.
- State elected officials, executive or legislative employees or judges or employees of the judiciary.
- Individual inmates and parolees and their representatives before state entities regarding their supervision and/or conditions of confinement.
- Representatives of the media.
- Persons under the age of 18.
Appearances related to Procurement of Real Property, Goods and Services
- Project Sunlight's reporting requirement for appearances related to the procurement of real property, goods and services applies to those appearances between covered individuals that are for the purpose of procuring a State contract, irrespective of whether there is a governmental procurement planned. Thus, reporting is required for appearances relating to State contracts for which a Restricted Period under the Procurement Lobbying Law has not been established and without regard to whether a governmental procurement is anticipated.
- Appearances during the Restricted Period — whether they are bid clarification meetings or bid interviews or any other permissible contact under the State Finance Law — do not need to be reported.
- Appearances for the purpose of advocating for the receipt of discretionary state funds that have already been appropriated must be reported.
- Appearances related to revenue contracts — under which revenue will be received by the State in exchange for real property, goods, or services — must be reported. Gifts, donations, or grants to the State that are not in exchange for real property, goods, or services do not need to be reported.
- Unsolicited appearances by vendors to attempt to influence a covered individual to purchase the vendor's products, even if not associated with a specific procurement, must be reported.
- Participation in widely-attended industry or professional conferences, including attending panels, participating in training or educational programs, or visiting booths on a show floor or exhibit hall is not an appearance.
- Appearances that are purely informational and occur at the request of the state entity — e.g., a state agency is conducting market research, seeking information of its own accord to inform a policy decision, or reaching out to an M/WBE firm to determine interest in and availability to provide goods or services — need not be reported.
- Appearances related to procurements under $25,000 do not need to be reported.
- Appearances related to emergency procurements do not need to be reported.
- Appearances related to public auctions do not need to be reported.
Appearances related to Rate Making
- State entities that conduct ratemaking should record all applicable appearances that lead up to the setting of the rate. For example, if a utility company is requesting an increase in a rate from a rate-making agency, all appearances made by covered individuals of that utility company before covered individuals at the agency should be reported, unless otherwise exempted.
- Appearances to influence rates outside of any formal ratemaking proceeding must also be reported; that is, any appearance that is an effort to influence a rate, formal or informal, should be reported.
- Once a rate has been set, the agency or authority need not record appearances related to such rate, unless they are appearances to attempt to the influence the application of a particular rate to a particular client or entity or are part of advocacy for future rate changes.
- Factual inquires about rates, following reports by state agencies or authorities or otherwise, do not need to be reported. These inquiries are informational. If an inquiry about a particular rate is both informational and advocacy, however, the appearance must be reported.
Appearances related to Regulatory Matters
- A regulatory matter is one related to agency enforcement of regulations and existing law. An appearance regarding a regulatory matter need only be reported if it is before a covered individual at a state agency or authority.
- Regulatory inspections that are for information-gathering purposes do not need to be reported. However, ancillary or subsequent communications related to the inspection, such as contesting a finding, must be reported.
- Appearances in connection with a state investigation of a regulated entity do not need to be reported.
Appearances related to Judicial or Quasi-Judicial Proceedings
- Judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings refers to proceedings that take place before a neutral arbiter at a state agency. In order to be covered by Project Sunlight, the proceeding must include a state entity as a party to the matter. For example, a challenge to a fine assessed by a state entity that takes place before an administrative law judge is a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding. Similarly, an enforcement action undertaken by a state entity that requires the involvement of an administrative law judge is a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding.
- Appearances related to a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding in which a party brings an action against another party, where the state entity only serves as a neutral arbiter or as a forum for the resolution of disputes between private parties, does not need to be reported.
- Employee disciplinary matters, the contractual grievance process, and challenges to employee performance reviews are not to be reported.
- Litigation pending in the court system and proceedings related to that litigation are not encompassed by Project Sunlight as they are not appearances before a state entity. Settlement negotiations related to litigation in the courts is therefore also not covered by Project Sunlight.
- Settlement negotiations related to otherwise covered judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings must be reported.
Appearances related to Adoption or Repeal of a Rule or Regulation
- An appearance must be reported only if a covered individual is advocating for the repeal or adoption or amendment of a rule or regulation subject to the State Administrative Procedures Act ("SAPA"), and the appearance is before a covered individual at the state entity.
- This reporting category is limited to agency rules and regulations. Appearances regarding the repeal or adoption or amendment of a statute, including an appropriation bill, are exempted.
- This category does not contemplate appearances related to the application or interpretation of rules and regulations that are in effect. Such appearances are covered by the category of "regulatory matters."
Provided below is the language for the Project Sunlight component of the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 (Chapter 399, § 4 (Part A), effective January 1, 2013.
§ 4. Every state agency, department, division, office, and board; every public benefit corporation, public authority and commission at least one of whose members is appointed by the governor; the state university of New York and the city university of New York, including all their constituent units except community colleges of the state university of New York; and the independent institutions operating statutory or contract colleges on behalf of the state, shall cooperate with the office of general services and supply to that office on a schedule and in a format determined by the office of general services in consultation with such governmental bodies, a list of all individuals, firms, or other entities (other than state or local governmental agencies) who have appeared before such governmental body in a representative capacity on behalf of a client or customer for purposes of:
- procuring a state contract for real property, goods or services for such client;
- representing such client or customer in a proceeding relating to rate making;
- representing such client in a regulatory matter;
- representing such client or customer in a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding; or
- representing such client or customer in the adoption or repeal of a rule or regulation. The office of general services shall create forms upon which such information shall be supplied and a database which shall collect and systemize the collection of such information. The office of general services shall make the database available and accessible to members of the public on a webpage subject to statutory confidentiality restrictions, and shall ensure that the information contained in the database is readily searchable and available for download. The database shall be known as "project sunlight".
Exceptions to reporting specific to the New York State Workers' Compensation Board include:
- Appearances by attorneys and licensed representatives on behalf of claimants or carriers pursuant to WCL § 20 and in any other related proceedings to determine compensation issues; this is where the Board is a neutral arbiter of disputes regarding claims for workers' compensation benefits. The disputes are resolved within Board adjudication processes and procedures.
- Appearances by attorneys, doctors and other treating providers in connection with the payment of medical bills, authorizations of physicians, temporary suspensions, arbitration, practice committees, medical appeals, and revocations pursuant to Article 2 of the Workers' Compensation Law. These interactions result in Board administrative actions through our Health Provider Administration relating to payment of medical bills. HPA attempts to resolve the payment issues. As these bills arise in the context of claims files, and contain claimant health information, they are confidential.
- Appearances in connection with or which trigger WCL § 110-a, the Board's confidentiality provision.
- Appearances in connection with the Board's licensing authority pursuant to WCL §§ 24-a, 50(3-b) & 50(3-d). The Board is involved with licensure application, review, granting, renewal, and removal. Section 24-concerns the Licensed Hearing Representatives, who the Board authorizes to represent claimants who file workers' compensation, claims. Section 50(3-b) and 50(3-d) concerns the licensure of entities (such as insurers and third-party administrators) and individuals to represent self-insured employers in proceedings before the Board. The licensing process is ministerial in nature.
- Compliance penalties against employers for failure to have workers' compensation or disability benefits coverage for periods of time; under § 52 and § 220, the Board imposes a penalty against the employer for non-compliance and provides a process for the redetermination of such penalties, which results in a decision regarding the penalty. As part of its investigation, the Board may obtain records from the employer relating to compliance via §131 and may penalize the employer for failing to post the notice of compliance pursuant to §51. Additionally, where there is a lack of coverage, the Board may issue a Stop Work Order under § 141-a and will place the employer on a debarment list pursuant to §141-b. An uninsured employer will be charged the costs of any uninsured claim against it pursuant to §26-a and §213. Insurance carriers are required to timely file proof of coverage and will be penalized for late filings pursuant to § 54 and § 227(b).
The New York State Workers' Compensation Board will comply with the reporting requirements covered under Project Sunlight.