Join Our Telegram Channel


The New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA) is a major factor in how citizens across the state, including the members of the media, learn how governmental decisions are made and how tax dollars are spent.

Our knowledge of what's going on in Town Hall is what keeps government transparent in their decision making and taxpayer dollar spending.

If Assemblyman Joe Danielsen has his way, the OPRA could be amended in ways that would take some information that’s currently public and shield it from view.

Danielsen is a Democrat who is a former member of Franklin Township's Planning Board and Fire Commissioners.

Currently, if a government agency denies your OPRA request, you can appeal in Superior Court or to the state’s Government Records Council. 

One bill (A-5613) would eliminate the ability to appeal in Superior Court. Instead, you'd have to rely on the state’s Government Records Council. The GRC typically takes over two years to render decisions. You would be permitted to appeal to the Appellate Division only after the GRC issues its Final Determination.

This proposal to change the existing law is disturbing. As previously reported here on FAA News, it took the filing of a lawsuit to get the Lakewood School District to finally release public records relating to their contract with the LSTA which coordinates busing for Lakewood's private schools.

Currently, OPRA requests can be submitted anonymously. This greatly increases transparency in government. This bill would require the requestor to provide the requestor’s name, as well as to use the government agency's official OPRA form.

The bill also limits requests to not more than two per month to any one custodian.

Under current law, agencies found to have broken the law have to pay the requestor’s attorney fees. Another bill (A-5614) in Danielsen’s legislation packet would leave that to the discretion of the judge.

A big issue with this change would be that attorneys would be less likely to take on OPRA cases as a result.

A third bill (A-5615) will essentially permit agencies to “blacklist” people they think make too many OPRA requests, by seeking a court order stating it does not have to provide anymore records to that person.

The final bill (A-5616) seeks to make a laundry list of current public records exempt from scrutiny. Among them: information about sexual harassment complaints against public employers and communication with a government agency in connection with public contracts.

Additionally, the bill changes the time frame within which a custodian must respond to a request when the requestor has submitted at least two other requests within the preceding five business days; the custodian will have 20 business days, instead of seven, to respond after receiving the third or subsequent request.

The packet of bills were introduced and referred to the Assembly Oversight, Reform and Federal Relations Committee.

As the Legislature will go into summer recess this Friday, it will likely be another little while before these bills get taken into actual consideration.

To join a FAA News WhatsApp Group, click here.

To join the FAA News WhatsApp Status, click here.

No comments: