Hoboken City Council to vote on measure opposing ‘gutting’ N.J. OPRA laws


The Hoboken City Council will vote on a measure this evening opposing “gutting” New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) laws that was proposed in the state Assembly.

Photo via Google Maps.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

The non-binding resolution is being sponsored by 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco, 2nd Ward Councilman Tiffanie Fisher, and 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino targets four bills introduced by Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17) that would make access to public records more difficult.

” … These bills, if enacted, could erode the public’s ability to hold government officials accountable, impede investigative journalism, and hinder the free flow of information necessary for informed decision-making,” the local legislation says.

“And, whereas, it is essential for the City of Hoboken to express its opposition to these bills and advocate for the protection and strengthening of OPRA to safeguard the public’s right to access government records.”

Danielson is sponsoring bills A-5613, A-5614, A-5615, and A-5616 which propose allowing government agencies to extend their response time from seven business days to 20 for repeat requesters, limiting commercial requestors to two records requests a month, and barring anyone who “substantially disrupted the operations” from making records requests for up to a year – among other changes.

“Transparency in government spending is crucial for accountability, public trust, and informed decision-making. Open access to government records maintains a transparent and accountable democracy,” DeFusco told HCV.

“I hope every governing body of every municipality across the state will pass a similar resolution. We all need to send the message to our state officials that it is critical for our democracy that we preserve and improve OPRA, not gut it like this legislation proposes,” added Fisher.

Danielsen told the New Jersey Monitor that the bills would actually help transparency since it would give the Government Records Council an additional $250,000 and expand the board from three to seven members.

However, critics have pointed out that the bill package would give the governor, Senate president, and Assembly speaker direct appointments to the board, rather than requiring full state Senate approval as they currently do.

Additionally, the proposal would ban records requestors from directly challenging denials in Superior Court, instead relying on the GRC, making appealing a decision extremely implausible.

“I’ve knocked on tens of thousands of doors over the last 25 years. Never once did anyone have a concern with public records access,” Danielsen told the statewide publication.

“That’s not in the top 100 of their concerns, but what is in their concerns is the tens of millions of dollars that are being wasted on abuse of the system.”

The Hoboken City Council will convene this evening at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 94 Washington St., and will also stream live on the city’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

The aforementioned resolution will be the last item to be considered on the agenda, and if approved, Hoboken would be the first municipality in the state to formally come out against potential revisions to OPRA laws.

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