Proposed Legislation Requires Municipalities Maintain Websites

By Julia Rock and Alex Arriaga

New York Focus spent the past few months criss-crossing the state to find out what New Yorkers want from their local media. Again and again, we heard that people were struggling to navigate sparse or confusing government websites – and that some local governments didn’t have websites at all.

That could soon change. The Assembly passed a bill last week requiring all municipalities to maintain websites, and the Senate is expected to vote on the legislation this week.

“Every single municipality, regardless of size, provides important services and takes important action on behalf of their constituencies,” said bill sponsor Senator James Skoufis. “It is flabbergasting, to say the least, that there remain, in the year 2024, some municipalities that don’t have any online presence, nevermind making sure that something as basic as a fiscal year budget and meeting notices are posted on the website.”

New York Focus readers and community members said that government websites can be key sources of information about local emergencies, landlord code violations, budget decisions, and government meetings.

“If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s hard to find,” said a community member who attended our listening session in Rochester.

Not only can bad or nonexistent websites make that information quite difficult to access, but local governments without websites may also be violating a key civic participation law.

Under the state Open Meeting Law, government bodies must follow certain steps to ensure that the public can attend their meetings. That includes posting a notice about when and where a meeting will take place, publishing important documents before the meeting, and posting minutes online afterwards. The law is supposed to help the public hold officials accountable — and participate in government deliberations themselves.

Government bodies, such as city governments, can comply with the law without maintaining a website – such as by posting notices in other online venues – but oftentimes government websites are the only place to find such information.

The proposed legislation would require municipal websites to include basic information such as election dates, meeting notices and minutes, and annual financial reports.

“Keeping town residents in the dark about important public meetings is undemocratic and contrary to New York’s presumption of open government,” wrote the government watchdog group Reinvent Albany in a memo supporting the legislation.

“We’re not looking to drop some onerous, new unthinkable mandate on small municipalities,” said Skoufis. “This is all very basic information that their constituency is entitled to.”

Have you experienced challenges while seeking information from government websites that you’d like to share with New York Focus? Contact Alex Arriaga at


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Staying Focused is compiled and written by Alex Arriaga
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