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The Moreland Act was passed by the legislature and signed into law in 1907 (Chapter 539). The act was introduced by Sherman Moreland, Republican leader in the assembly, at the urging of Governor Charles Evans Hughes.

The Moreland Act, now Section 6 of the Executive Law (formerly Section 7, 1907-1909, and Section 8, 1909-1951), authorizes the governor, "either in person or by one or more persons appointed by him for the purpose, to examine and investigate the management and affairs of any department, board, bureau or commission of the state." Investigators were empowered to subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, hold hearings, and subpoena "any books or papers deemed relevant or material." Moreland Act commissions derive their power from that act and from Executive Law Section 63.8.