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A bill soon will be placed on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk.

It's one he needs to sign and one for which we all should be concerned.

As a citizen, it's your right to know the decision-making process in state and local government. The Freedom of Information Law declares that the public, not just the press, has the right to review documents and statistics as to how decisions are made. Its use is widespread and a valuable resource to keep our government in check.

The aforementioned bill and its genesis have to do with the ability of government agencies to deny access to public information without a reasonable basis.

A "don't like it, then let's go to court" tactic can be used to circumvent FOIL — as those denying access know the expense involved for the public to head to court for a resolution.

As the law stands now, even if a judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, that judge may or may not decide to award attorneys' fees. All the risk falls on the plaintiff — and those denying access know it. That expense risk is why so few people take the fight to court for enforcement.

This bill would amend FOIL to require the mandatory award of attorneys' fees to a plaintiff when the plaintiff substantially prevails and no reasonable basis for denial was determined.

Would this make agencies think twice?

Absolutely.

Would this give the public more muscle?

Definitely.

— Utica Observer-Dispatch

Sports betting will be coming to New York state — eventually, if not immediately. The time to debate the morality of it passed long ago.

As the Press-Republican reported, it looks very much as if sports betting will reach state voters as early as 2019.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected next month to take up the legality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which bans betting on professional and amateur sports in all states except Nevada.

If, as anticipated, the law is wiped out, New York lawmakers are eager to enact legislation allowing gambling in racinos, Off-Track Betting Corp. parlors or elsewhere so the state could begin reaping some of the benefits of this billion-dollar industry.

The case was brought to court by the state of New Jersey, our neighbor to the south. If and when New Jersey has clearance — it already has casinos in Atlantic City, of course — surely New York will insist on competing for the virtually limitless profits, which would provide significant tax relief for its citizens.

Former Gov. Mario Cuomo told the Press-Republican Editorial Board decades ago that he was against legalized gambling because, as he said, "Until you've seen the sad consequences gambling can impose on families, you can't understand how evil it really is."

Yet citizens must ask whether it's the government's job to protect gamblers from themselves while watching billions of dollars pour into the pockets of other individuals, corporations and governments.

And isn't New York state, for example, already profiting from the proceeds of its own legal lotteries and horse-racing industries? The hypocrisy of such prohibitions is obvious — and obviously not good for the taxpayers. ... If people want to bet on it — and the predominance of office pools is evidence they do — they should be able to without a hypocritical government wagging a finger.

— Plattsburgh Press-Republican

The Military Justice Improvement Act is getting old. For the fifth year in a row, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has dusted it off and introduced it for a vote. But, the New York senator has yet to see the bill pass the Senate. Last year, it was pulled out of the national defense budget without an ounce of debate.

This time, Congress needs to make it happen.

Gillibrand has been leading the charge against sexual assault in America — on college campuses, in the workplace, and in the military — long before the issue exploded into what now feels like a daily roll call of creeps who should have known better. Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, Ben Affleck, George H.W. Bush, Kevin Spacey, Michael Oreskes, Roy Moore, Louis C.K., Al Franken, Charlie Rose. In addition to these men, more than a dozen other, lesser known names are on a list being kept by USA Today. We suspect that list will grow.

But, we must remember that you don't have to be rich, powerful or famous to sexually assault someone. In fact, these Hollywood types, politicians and business leaders who are facing allegations or have recently confessed to wrongdoing make up a miniscule fraction of a fraction of those who commit these crimes. The overwhelming majority of people who commit sexual assault do not make headlines, and may only be known to their victims. ... In the last four years alone, the Pentagon has documented hundreds sexual assault and harassment, against generals, admirals and senior civilians. Last year, the Department of Defense announced a record number of sexual assaults reported against service members, and the lowest conviction rate. More than half of military sexual assault survivors say they've suffered retaliation for reporting the crime.

She's right. There are no acceptable excuses for allowing the system to remain the same. The Military Justice Improvement Act would give independent, trained military prosecutors authority over serious alleged crimes. ...  There is some bipartisan support for the bill. It should be unanimous.

— Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

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