Only 1 Hudson County legislator votes no on OPRA bill; passage is panned back home


Only one Hudson County legislator voted no on a bill in Trenton that many advocates have said will significantly hinder the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), where the passage of the legislation was panned back home to some extent. 

Screenshot via New Jersey Legislature.

By Daniel Ulloa and John Heinis/Hudson County View

“I voted no because I started seeing residents across the state coming out against it, it just felt like nobody wanted it, so I went with what I felt was the will of the people,” Assemblywoman Barbara McCann-Stamato (D-31) told HCV.

She said a clerical error had listed her as not voting on the bill, which she had corrected before she left the Assembly chambers today.

Her running mates, state Senator Angela McKnight and Assemblyman Will Sampson, did not vote and voted yes, respectively. They both declined to discuss their vote.

In the 32nd Legislative District, none of the three legislators voted. Assembly members John Allen and Jessica Ramirez were not present, while state Senator Raj Mukherji did not vote, which he explained at length in a social media post.

“This was ‘not voting’ — which is what I’ve said I would do for a month — common practice out of courtesy to a primary sponsor from the same party when a member does not support a bill.”

“I didn’t vote for the bill because I opposed it. We walked out to many ‘thank you’s’ from pro-transparency advocates who understand the process. But to be effective for our districts, we also have to work with our colleagues on many issues of import coming up, e.g. school funding formula.”

Ramirez could not immediately be reached for comment, while Allen deferred comment to spokesman Rob Horowitz, who said he was unable to change travel plans at the last minute.

“This was a voting session added to the calendar at the last minute. Unfortunately, Assemblyman Allen had previous and long scheduled travel plans that include visiting his chronically ill 74-year-old father,” he explained in an email.

“As a result, he was not able to be in attendance today. If he was able to attend, as he publicly announced last week, he would have voted against the legislation. Given the lopsided nature of the vote, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome.”

Finally, in the 33rd Legislative District saw everyone vote yes: state Senator Brian Stack, as well as Assemblymen Julio Marenco and Gabriel Rodriguez.

“I think this bill brings us to a better place than we are currently at for the public and also for government agencies because it allows government to concentrate on better requests without wasting government resources,” Marenco said over the phone.

“Legislation is never perfect and all stakeholders came together to put forth the best bill possible.”

Stack and Rodriguez could not be immediately reached for comment.

Both the Hoboken and Jersey City City Councils passed resolutions opposing the controversial OPRA bill las year, while the Bayonne City Council has a resolution up this week in support of the legislation – though the symbolic measure has little to no significance now.

The amended bill would end a mandate that governments that lose records disputes in court pay the legal fees of the requestors, allow municipalities to sue habitual requestors, eliminate anonymous requests, and force requesters to prove that fees clerks would charge are within reason, among other things.

Bills S-2930 and A-4045 passed the NJ Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee and the Assembly Appropriations Committee last Thursday.

In the Assembly, Joe Danielson (D-17), Reginald Attkins (D-20), and Victoria Flynn (R-13) sponsored, the measure, which cleared the Assembly Appropriations Committee 8-1, with one abstention. Rodriguez was one of the eight who voted yes.

The Senate bill was sponsored by Paul Sarlo (D-36) and Anthony Bucco (R-25) and there was no discussion regarding the bill in the New Jersey State Senate before it was voted on and passed 21-10.

New Jersey Senate Majority Leader and Teresa Ruiz (D-29), whose district includes East Newark and Harrison, also voted yes.

“Please, no booing in the chamber,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-19) said after it was announced the Senate approved the bill by one vote.

“I’m sure everyone in this room will declare themselves an advocate of transparency and open government,” Danielson said.

“This statue was written 22 years ago and poorly written. I believe we can improve the public’s access to public documents. We sat with interested parties and organizations. No one walked away empty-handed or getting everything. To say this was a rubber-stamped or fast-tracked bill is just simply wrong.”

He argued it would protect the privacy of certain government officials, stop scammers, and eliminate commercial requests.

“Will the sponsor yield for questions?” Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-26) eventually asked.

“No,” Coughlin replied.

“Is here scared? It’s this type of bill that really erodes the public’s trust in us.”

He noted Danielson ducked public questions along with his questions before expressing his disdain.

“I don’t blame him. This bill is malicious in its intention. We have a job to protect the public. Today we’ve forgotten that. No logical person … would even consider voting for it. The atrocities in here are too many,” Bergen declared.

He noted it applies to all local and state government agencies.

“OPRA is designed to access information they won’t give you in public. Almost every yes vote is threatened to be that way or bought to be that way!” Bergen exclaimed to applause.

“It doesn’t get rid of any data mining, it doesn’t reduce the volume. The bill oppresses the public. For you progressives in the chamber, I have no idea … how you stomach this … It gives the government agency the right to sue you for putting in government requests! This bill kills 40 years of progress. You should be disgusted with yourself. This bill is awful! I’m embarrassed to be here talking about it!”

“Order, order,” Coughlin said after applause.

The measure made it through the Assembly by a tally of 42-28(1).

On social media, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, a Democratic candidate for Congress in the 8th District, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, a Democratic running for governor, and Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea (D-2), a declared Jersey City mayoral hopeful, chided the bill’s approval – which now awaits action from Gov. Phil Murphy (D).

“I posted a couple weeks ago that my intention for the 2025 gubernatorial campaign is supporting primaries based on campaign policies across NJ: We have both resources and volunteers to do it and it’s my comfort lane,” Fulop wrote on X.

“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[.]”


Editor’s note: This story was updated Tuesday morning to reflect the latest vote tally out of the New Jersey Assembly that included some changes, including that of Assemblywoman Barbara McCann Stamato’s no vote. 

Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /home/hcvcp/public_html/wp-content/themes/Hudson County View/includes/wp_booster/td_block.php on line 353


  1. There are issues where one can have policy disagreements with elected officials, and differences can be bridged with facts. Then there are votes which show you have elected people who do not share your values.

    When elected officials vote a certain way on certain bills, they tell you who they are. Believe them.

  2. Very disappointing from the freshman senator Raj. Maybe he should vote his conscience if he really believed it was a no vote.

    As Tip O’Neil said you vote your conscience first and you vote with leadership last.

    Showing that they have no spine.