Critics Slam Legislature for Passing OPRA Public Records Overhaul

Vince Polistina OPRA Open Public Records Act New Jersey
Graphic: DownbeachBUZZ.

Critics of a bill that aims to overhaul the Open Public Records Act are panning the Legislature for approving the bill Monday and sending it to Gov. Phil Murphy for his signature.

The bill seeks to make it harder for records requestors to get attorney’s fees from public entities that are found to have withheld public documents, allow judges to ban some requestors from filing requests entirely, and allow governments to charge more money for handing over some documents.

“The OPRA bill and how it was advanced is what’s wrong with our democracy. It will chill requests by media, advocates, and community activists, shielding the actions and decisions of local officials from public view,” said Dena Mottola Jaborska, New Jersey Citizens Action’s executive director.

DownbeachBUZZ: Locally, who voted NO on this OPRA bill?

  • Michael Testa
  • Don Guardian
  • Claire Swift

Vince Polistina – initially voted no, later changed vote to ‘not voting’.

Who voted YES on this OPRA bill?

  • Antwan McClellan
  • Erik Simonsen

Jim Sullivan, deputy policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, called the Legislature’s action “shameful” and called on Murphy to veto the bill.

“Legislative leaders should be strengthening mechanisms for government transparency, not undermining them in backroom deals shielded from public scrutiny,” Sullivan said.

Supporters of the bill have said it would “modernize” the Open Public Records Act by urging public entities to post more of their documents online. They have also condemned how commercial businesses have used the law — municipal clerks say their offices are inundated with requests from businesses — though the bill does little to address that issue.

Two mayors seeking the Democratic nomination for governor next year, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, issued statements yesterday repeating their opposition to the bill.

“I know how cumbersome OPRA requests can be,” Baraka said in a statement. “But I also know without transparency we do not have a democracy.”

Fulop indicated that lawmakers who voted in support of the bill have made themselves vulnerable at the ballot box.

“There are so many legislators that have never had a competitive race in their lives + today they placed a nice + easy to see target on themselves,” Fulop wrote on social media.


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1 thought on “Critics Slam Legislature for Passing OPRA Public Records Overhaul”

  1. It is New Jersey.

    Such an honest state with little to no corruption?

    Why would we need Open Records?

    We need to trust them totally without question.

    You realize I am being sarcastic.

    It is the opposite of the above in New Jersey and we need stronger, not weaker Open Records laws.

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